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Application of Mathematical Models to English Secular Cycles


Secular cycles are 2-3 century oscillations in population associated with periodic state breakdown. Turchin and Nefedov (2009) find two secular cycles in England: the Plantagenet (1150–1485) and Tudor-Stuart (1485–1730). This paper proposes modified dating for these cycles (1070–1485 and 1485–1690) and two adjacent cycles: Anglo-Saxon (ca. 880–1070) and mercantile (1690–undetermined). Several mathematical models for secular cycles were investigated for their ability to model trends in population, state strength, elite number and internal instability during the Plantagenet and Tudor-Stuart cycles with the modified dating. The demographic-fiscal model (Turchin 2003) uses just six adjustable parameters and gave as good a fit to the population data as a polynomial model with ten parameters. Sociopolitical instability has been proposed as the primary factor in delayed population recovery following secular decline. This did not seem to be the case for England, at least when instability was measured in terms of large-scale events. For such events the dominant pattern was the fathers and sons cycle, not the much longer secular cycle.


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