Capital (city)

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The capital of a country or state is usually a major city where the government is located. A country will have a single capital in relation to the rest of the world, though nationally several cities may serve as administrative, judicial and legislative centres. In city states such as Singapore, the country and its capital are one and the same.

A typical example of a capital is London, which is the centre of the United Kingdom for all three. Because of this, it is also an economic and cultural centre, though other cities in the UK are also host to legal bodies, many businesses and political assemblies. In South Africa, by contrast, the cities of Pretoria (often called Tshwane), Cape Town and Bloemfontein are the nation's executive, legislative and judicial capitals, with Pretoria the de facto first city.

The capital is not necessarily the largest, most powerful, or best-known city in the country. New York City, for example, is occasionally mistaken for the capital of the United States of America (the correct city being Washington, D.C.), and likewise Sydney is sometimes assumed to be the capital of Australia, rather than lesser-known Canberra.

Capital status may have changed hands several times in a country's history. In Japan, Kyoto (京都 Kyooto 'capital city') was the de facto capital for over a thousand years, until the Emperor Meiji moved it to Tokyo (東京 Tookyoo 'east capital') in the nineteenth century; the statuses of the two cities are not explicitly stated in Japanese law, with supporters of both claiming that one or the other is the actual capital. A city's status as capital may also be controversial outside the country: for example, few countries recognise Israel's declaration that Jerusalem is its capital, so embassies are mostly to be found in Tel Aviv. The status of Jerusalem remains part of a heated debate over the creation of a future Palestine and the final status of the region's borders.

See also