Quantitative History Makes a Comeback: Historians Argue for a Scientific Study of the Past

Marc Parry The Chronicle of Higher Education February 25, 2013 Link


Numbers illuminate the shape of history. That’s a core belief of the Stanford archaeologist and historian Ian Morris, and his book Why the West Rules—for Now puts it into practice by quantifying the development of different societies. But he’s hardly the only one. A growing crop of scholars share Morris’s science-steeped, big-picture approach to the past. And while his book relies on simple mathematics, others go further. They aspire to capture history in equations. And they want to use math to predict how the future might play out, given different assumptions about factors like population growth or climate change. “There are people much weirder than me out there,” says Morris.

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