In modern politics, cabinet ministers are major actors in the arena of power as they occupy a strategic locus of command from which vital, authoritative decisions flow continuously. Who are these uppermost policy-makers? What are their background characteristics and credentials? How are they selected and which career paths do they travel in their ascent to power?This set of research issues has guided this collection, a comprehensive, empirical account of the composition and patterns of recruitment of ministerial elites in Southern Europe throughout the last 150 years, thus encompassing different historical circumstances and political settings - liberal, authoritarian and democratic. With original, comparative data from the 19th century to the present, it provides valuable material for debates about how regime change and economic development affect who governs.