"Education, (n.) That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding."
Ambrose Bierce
“History is a vast early warning system”
Norman Cousins
"History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"
Edward Gibbon

The 1st objective of the M.O.R.D.O.R. project is the creation of a brand new Encyclopedia Tyrannica – aimed to make education on authoritarian regimes better and easier and more inclusive. It will be published in open access format on this website. 

Due to its planned scope and especially designed didactic foundation, this work will become the go-to book for scholars, learners and thesis-writing students (as a reference), while educators can rely on this book’s accompanying didactic booklet (with lesson plans and (self-)teaching user guide) when preparing classes and developing course curricula. 

The study field of ‘Dictatorship and Democracy Research’ (D&DR) has proliferated in the last three decades, now encompassing various subfields that interlink with political theory, development, peace and conflict studies (both civil and interstate war), etc. and increasingly also with foreign policy analysis and IR. While this trend is encouraging it has become progressively difficult for researchers keep up with the growing literature, and the mere task of getting into the field and covering the basic literature is a real challenge for newcomers and graduate students. 

As a consequence, research today often pursues ‘old’ questions, already answered elsewhere, or new research (field work) is designed with outdated theoretical models. Also, many innovations to the study of dictatorship are made within the locked focus of specific Area Studies (on Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, etc.). The fragmentation of Area Studies and their separation from autocracy studies hampers progress in both fields, since new insights do not migrate back into the mainstream literature on dictatorship, and Area Studies often fall back on outdated theoretical models when doing cutting-edge and necessary fieldwork. 

M.O.R.D.O.R. coordinates a large group of top scholars to develop an Open Access, online encyclopedia to map past and current research on dictatorship and democracy, spanning five decades, referring to key contributions and providing road maps for (self-)study and future research design. It will bridge to other disciplines and funnel insights from Area Studies and non-English research traditions into the mainstream.


The Encyclopedia will be unique in size and scope because it combines all the following elements: 

(1) global coverage (no region understudied, no partial comparisons)

(2) dictatorship-oriented

(3) non-Western input (both from reviews and from non-Western Area experts, and insights from non-English literature)

(4) basic & advanced reviews of topics (targeting undergraduate students up to advanced readers and scholars

(5) learner-centered approach (with clear guidelines for educators and students – and self-study). 

This Encyclopedia will foster change for teachers by making the creation of courses on D&DR easier. We offer methodological advice and point out blind spots and pitfalls in research design. We hope to kick start innovation by offering section on “future avenues for research.” We plan a better coverage of understudied world regions or at least show where knowledge gaps persist. This way we plan to spark more interest for niche topics (by pointing readers to available literature) and introduce non-Western concepts in the English mainstream.  

Our Target Audiences

  • BA & MA students and their teachers (offering them study materials, course maps, etc.)
  • Graduate students (entry in the field of study, literature review)
  • Scholars (research support)
  • Public as a whole (awareness, quality information)


  • Become the global (free!) online repository for studying dictatorship and democracy
  • Become a useful, didactic-centered tool meeting students’ and teachers’ needs
  • Become a state-of-the-art (Academic) reference for research, integrating disciplines and Area Studies, and a road map for future research

Encyclopedia Team


All encyclopedia contributers are investigative authors, that have topical and/or theoretical expertise. Their role is to prepare ‘stand-alone entries or’ ‘umbrella entries’ to which sub-entries will be inserted at later stages. They will also act as p-peer-reviewers for other entries according to their specialization. And depending their linguistic fluency, some will do targeted searches to unearth insights from the non-English specialized literature. They will share their practical experience as teachers during the master class on advanced dictatorship research.

Area Study Experts

These a pivotal role in the project for several outputs. They will be tasked by investigating authoritarian contexts creating Area Reports. Once these are revised they will also investigate understudied topics for their region with the goal to make the encyclopedia more comprehensive and complete. They will collaborate with the editors in preparing and implementing some fieldwork.  Some of them will share their practical experience as teachers during the master class on advanced dictatorship research. 

Associated Partners

These scholars and experts perform a key function in hosting fieldwork delegations in their institutions and preparing a series of consultations, interviews and round tables for incoming editors and Area Study Experts.


Van den Bosch

Dr. Jeroen Van den Bosch specialized in Slavonic studies, IR (on EU foreign policy), Comp. Pol. (dictatorships) covering Sub Saharan Africa, Eurasia and (recently) the Indo-Pacific. His editorial experience started in 2012 when he worked as editor-in-chief of the Pol. Sci. journal: R/evolutions: Global Trends & Regional Issues, as (developmental and) topic editor for the European Handbook of Central Asian Studies (2021, 600 pages, 20+ authors) and for a handbook on Indo-Pacific Studies (forthcoming 2023). 


Prof. Natasha Lindstaedt (Comp. Pol. and IR), published over 5 books on dictatorship, (incl. textbooks). She is currently editor for Elgar Publishing, and was in 2018 for a special issue on authoritarian regimes for the journal Politics and Governance. Beside a global approach, she works on the Middle East and Latin America.