Thu19Mar2015Fri20Mar2015College Park Campus, University of Maryland
Mon04May2015Wed06May2015Santa Fe Institute
This working group brings together researchers from four macrohistory projects examining long-term historical and evolutionary processes to explore common problems and concerns. The focus is on ways to achieve coherence in data coding, format, and archiving so that the datasets created by each project can be accessed and integrated by scholars in the future. One goal of the working group is to consider establishing Seshat: Global History Databank as a central portal for accessing macrohistorical data sets, and to explore possible physical and organizational structures for this archive of linked data. One focus is the Linked Data approach, which develops data structures that allow automatic computer evaluation and categorization so that data can be readily interlinked. Time will be spent discussing other projects, both complete and planned, that might be included in a macrohistory data archive.
Sponsored by the Europe Center of Stanford University and the University of Vienna
Organized by Bernhard Palme, Walter Scheidel and Peer Vries
Thu01Oct20155:30 pmOslo, Norway
17:35 – 18:15 Keynote lecture by David Sloan Wilson
18:15 – 19:15 Panel with Robert Frank and Peter Turchin
19:15 – 20:00 Young Researchers’ Challenge
20:30 – 22:30 Reception at the American Ambassador's Residence
Seshat postdoc Dan Hoyer is leading a small workshop with five historians and archaeologists with expertise on Chinese civilizations. I will be helping. We are bringing these experts to Tampa to help us fill gaps in the databank and check the data that have already been entered.
An Institute for Research on World Systems workshop associated with the International Studies Association meeting
Thu02Jun2016University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Fri05Aug2016Nanyang Technological University, public lecture
What are the social forces that hold together complex societies encompassing hundreds of millions of people? How did human ultrasociality – extensive cooperation among large numbers of unrelated individuals – evolve? The theory of cultural multilevel selection is a powerful theoretical framework for addressing these questions. I use this framework to investigate a major transition in human social evolution, from small-scale egalitarian groups to large-scale hierarchical societies such as states and empires. A key mathematical result in the theory is that large states should arise in regions where interpolity competition – warfare – is particularly intense, resulting in high probability of cultural trait extinction. In my talk I will describe how this theory fares when tested empirically against alternatives, using Seshat: Global History Databank.
Register for the event here.
Mon08Aug2016National University of Singapore, lecture
I propose a model for the evolution of large states during the Ancient and Medieval eras, motivated by the ideas of Ibn Khaldun. Ibn Khaldun primarily focused on the interaction between pastoralists and farmers in the Maghreb (Northern Africa), but I extend his theory to Afroeurasia as a whole. The ‘mirror-empires’ model proposes that antagonistic interactions between steppe pastoralists and settled agriculturalists within, or next to the Old World’s arid belt (running from the Sahara desert to the Gobi desert) result in an autocatalytic process, which pressures both pastoralist and farming polities to scale up in polity size and military power. Thus, location on a steppe frontier should correlate with the frequency of imperial genesis. I survey extensive historical data that support this prediction.
Fri12Aug2016Nanyang Technological University Complexity Institute, lecture
A useful approach to thinking about why outbreaks of political violence (scaling up to revolutions and civil wars) occur is to separate the causes into structural conditions and triggering events. Specific triggers of political upheaval, such as self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit vendor, are very hard, perhaps impossible to predict. On the other hand, structural pressures build up slowly and predictably, and are amenable to analysis and forecasting. Quantitative historical analysis reveals that complex human societies are affected by recurrent — and predictable — waves of political violence (P. Turchin and S. A. Nefedov. Secular Cycles. Princeton Univ. Press; 2009). The structural-demographic theory suggests that such seemingly disparate social indicators as stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, and exploding public debt, are actually related to each other dynamically. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of looming political instability. In my presentation I will describe a dynamical model based on structural-demographic theory and illustrate it with data on economic, social, and political dynamics in nineteenth century America, including the most violent episode of political instability in the U.S. history, the American Civil War. I also discuss what this theory tells us about the U.S. today.
Wed17Aug2016Thu18Aug2016Nanyang Technological University, Complexity Institute
The primary objective of the workshop is to work with a small group of invited experts to examine the the topic of social complexity and the potential role of world religions in promoting prosocial behaviour by rulers and elites throughout the last four millennia, both globally and within the context of Southeast Asia.
Key topics include prosociality, religion, cooperation, Southeast Asia, social complexity, structural equality, history, Buddhism and Confucianism.
A public session will be held on Wednesday, August 17 from 9:00-14:20. More information here.
The ‘Axial Age’ generally refers to a historical period within the first century BCE during which a cluster of changes in cultural traditions, most notably the emergence of current world religions and moralizing philosophies (Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), are said to have occurred in some of the relatively complex social formations in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Near East, and South and East Asia. Unfortunately, many questions remain unanswered as different scholars utilize different material to approach the topic. Indeed, it is not quite clear what exactly the 'Axial Age' even is. Seshat: Global History Databank is currently involved in a project trying to untangle these issues, testing systematically the different theories that have been offered about how/why Axial societies developed when and where they did.
The Seshat team is putting together a workshop, Testing the Axial Age, to be held in Oxford January 26-27, 2017. We will bring together some of the world's leading experts on Axial Age societies, religious and cultural history, and the history of social equality. Together, we will discuss Seshat's work testing the various predictions of Axial Age scholarship against the empirical evidence and to review our collection of structured historical data from these Axial societies.
Tue13Jun2017Wed14Jun2017Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse
Why do institutions (laws, rules, sanctions, customs, and norms) in a given human society emerge, change, and disappear? Explaining institutional change has been a major theoretical and empirical challenge. A major obstacle facing explanations proposed by social scientists and historians is the peculiarities of the historical context. Historians tend to address this challenge by focusing on descriptions of what happened and emphasizing explanations that are contingent on the specific historical circumstances in which institutions evolve. Economists, other social scientists, and cultural evolutionists, on the other hand, tend to “generalize” and seek explanations that apply beyond the specific context of study. The tension between particular circumstances and general principles has not been resolved, with different scholars disagreeing as to the extent of permissible and empirically founded generalizations. Moreover, general principles in history are often as not as general as they may appear at first sight and are also bounded by the peculiarities of the data and the context.