Cliodynamics is a transdisciplinary area of research integrating historical macrosociology, cultural and social evolution, economic history/cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes original articles advancing the state of theoretical knowledge in this transdisciplinary area. In the broadest sense, this theoretical knowledge includes general principles that explain the functioning, dynamics, and evolution of historical societies and specific models, usually formulated as mathematical equations or computer algorithms. Cliodynamics also has empirical content that deals with discovering general historical patterns, determining empirical adequacy of key assumptions made by models, and testing theoretical predictions with data from actual historical societies. A mature, or ‘developed theory’ thus integrates models with data; the main goal of Cliodynamics is to facilitate progress towards such theory in history and cultural evolution.
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Volume 3, Issue 2, 2012
Editor's Column for Cliodynamics Vol 3, Iss 2
Beginning with the Price equation, recent work has developed the method of evolutionary decomposition, an exact partitioning of mean phenotypic change into underlying demographic processes. We present a method of evolutionary decomposition for human cultural change, and a demonstration of this method on three centuries of half-decadal census records collected from a simulated island population. By decomposing phenotypic trajectories, we can develop and evaluate suitable hypotheses of the driving mechanisms of cultural evolution.
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This paper constructs a formal spatial model of a hunter-gatherer economy. By assuming that resource locations around a hunter gatherer camp can become congested I obtain the size of the area harvested as a function of population, resource density, gathering efficiency and time costs of commuting to locations. The model is then extended to include Malthusian and resource dynamics. The resulting dynamic properties are quite rich, with the possibility of stable steady states, as well as stable and unstable cycles. One result is that technological progress can actually cause such economies to collapse due to overharvesting of resources. Next, the model is extended to include the possibility of both group and individual migration. The former removes the possibility of collapse and exploding oscillations but introduces a new source of fluctuations in resources and population. Individual migration on the other hand, as long as there is no limit on new camp sites which can be settled by daughter colonies, will completely preclude the existence of oscillations.
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The origin of human ultrasociality—the ability to cooperate in huge groups of genetically unrelated individuals—has long interested evolutionary and social theorists, but there has been little systematic empirical research on the topic. The Historical Database of Sociocultural Evolution, which we introduce in this article, brings the available historical and archaeological data together in a way that will allow hypotheses concerning the origin of ultrasociality to be tested rigorously. In addition to describing the methodology informing the set-up of the database, our article introduces four hypotheses that we intend to test using the database. These hypotheses focus on the resource base, warfare, ritual, and religion, respectively. Ultimately the aim of our database is to offer a ‘rapid discovery science’ route to the study of the past. We believe our approach is not only highly complementary with existing traditions of enquiry in history and archaeology but will extend their intellectual scope and explanatory power.
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War and Peace and War presents a model of cyclic human behavior that can be mapped onto data from historical periods to explain some of the reasons behind these events. This report describes a database for representing these maps between specific instances of the secular cycle model and high-level descriptions of many of the world’s historical empires. The initial use of this database provides a strategic look at one possible interpretation of well-known historical events. It is hoped that this initial mapping will act as a baseline to be enhanced by more detailed research. In addition, when viewed at this strategic level this mapping suggests a refinement of the Secular Cycle model based on a regular shortening of the periods of these cycles over the full imperial cycle and over the general course of human history.
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Social Evolution Forum
A special feature in the Social Evolution Forum with R.I.M. Dunbar as the author of the focus article. Commentaries by Nicolas Baumard, Marcus J. Hamilton, Paul Hooper, Daniel N. Finkel, and Herbert Gintis.
Over the last two decades, a trend of multiculturalism in world history has enjoyed a largely uncontested rise to prominence. Its main aim has been to challenge Eurocentrism. Its main achievement is to have issued a corrective in early modern economic history: prior to the industrial revolution, there were numerous economic parallels between Europe and Asia, particularly China. But multicultural world history is now under greater scrutiny and challenge for marginalizing the West and downplaying numerous non-economic divergences of the West. In response, a post-multicultural world history is now emerging. Its most important work so far is Ricardo Duchesne’s The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (2011). The main achievement of post-multicultural world history is to have established that there were numerous critical non-economic divergences between Europe and other regions. The West was both peculiar and inventive across many domains.
A Review of How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai'i by Patrick V. Kirch (University of California Press, 2010)