Why do we need models of historical dynamics

Turchin, Peter; Korotayev, Andrey; Grinin, Leonid
History and Mathematics February 5, 2006 Journal Link


Many historical processes are dynamic (a dynamic process is one that changes with time). Populations increase and decline, economies expand and contract, while states grow and collapse. How can we study mechanisms that bring about temporal change and explain the observed trajectories? A very common approach, which has proved its worth in innumerable applications (particularly, but not exclusively, in the natural sciences), consists of taking a holistic phenomenon and mentally splitting it up into separate parts that are assumed to interact with each other. This is the dynamical systems approach, because the whole phenomenon is represented as a system consisting of several interacting elements (or subsystems). In the dynamical system's approach, we must describe mathematically how different subsystems interact with each other. This mathematical description is the model of the system, and we can use a variety of methods to study the dynamics predicted by the model, as well as attempt to test the model by comparing its predictions with the observed dynamics.
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