A New Era in the Study of Global History Is Born but It Needs to Be Nurtured

Whitehouse, H., Turchin, P., François, P., Savage, P. E., Currie, T. E., Feeney, K. C., Cioni, E., Purcell, R., Ross, R. M., Larson, J., Baines, J., ter Haar, B., & Covey, R. A
Journal of Cognitive Historiography November 6, 2020 Journal Link PDF


This article is a response to Slingerland et al. who criticize the quality of the data from Seshat: Global History Databank utilized in our Nature paper entitled “Complex Societies Precede Moralizing Gods throughout World History”. Their critique centres around the roles played by research assistants and experts in procuring and curating data, periodization structure, and so-called “data pasting” and “data filling”. We show that these criticisms are based on misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the methods used by Seshat researchers. Overall, Slingerland et al.’s critique (which is crosslinked online here) does not call into question any of our main findings, but it does highlight various shortcomings of Slingerland et al.’s database project. Our collective efforts to code and quantify features of global history hold out the promise of a new era in the study of global history but only if critique can be conducted constructively in good faith and both the benefits and the pitfalls of open science fully recognized.
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