What do you think the "state" in "city-state" means?
This was in stark contrast to what was the rule of the day and had been for most of history- which was that people were organized into multi-ethnic kingdoms/empires/principalities ruled over by monarchs and emperors that more often than not shared little in common with their subjects.
City-states, on the other hand, were more of a thing in ancient history. Back when the limitations of bureaucracy, infrastructure and communications technology made it much more practical most of the time for cities to be locally governed. Today we are left with only a handful but from antiquity up through the 19th century- right around when nationalism as an idea was catching on, in fact- there were tons.
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