Our collective knowledge about past societies used to be almost entirely in a form inaccessible to scientific analysis, stored in historians' brains or scattered over heterogeneous notes and publications. The huge potential of this knowledge for testing theories about political and economic development has been largely untapped.
Founded in 2011, the Seshat: Global History Databank brings together the most current and comprehensive body of knowledge about human history in one place. Our unique Databank systematically collects what is currently known about the social and political organization of human societies and how civilizations have evolved over time.
This massive collection of historical information allows us and others to rigorously test different hypotheses about the rise and fall of large-scale societies across the globe and human history. Working with a large international and interdisciplinary team, our database offers the means to study the past through well-established scientific techniques.
This site is where we release to the public the datasets that have been collected by Seshat.
The primary purpose of releasing this data is to aid the Seshat project's efforts in coding social complexity and other variables for past societies and to help us to improve the quality of our data. Our primary audience is historians and archaeologists who are expert on the societies that are included in this release.
We invite you to browse the databank to gain a better understanding of our goals and approaches. We are particularly interested in getting your feedback on specific data points. We also welcome comments about the boundaries of our polities; both the duration and territorial extent of our polities are based on the most up-to-date scholarship to which we have access as well consultations with our expert collaborators. However, none of the information in Seshat is set in stone—we are always looking to improve and update our data, to add nuance, and incorporate differing opinions.
If you see any errors or imprecisions in our data please let us know by clicking on the red pencil iconbeside the offending datapoint and telling us what we got wrong. As our site is still being developed, please also send us an email at: email@example.com and let us know which polity/ies you have left comments or suggestions on to ensure that we receive it. Please also be patient, as we may not be able to address every comment immediately.
The information presented here covers only a fraction of the data that have been coded in the Seshat Databank. We have started to gather information on Social Complexity covering additional NGAs (Natural Geographic Areas). Furthermore, in addition to the social complexity variables, we are also gathering data on Religion and Ritual, Warfare, Agriculture, Norms and Institutions, and Well-Being variables (see the Codebook here). We invite archaeologists and historians with expertise on these societies and variables to become Seshat experts and help us build the Databank
Peter Turchin is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut; Research Associate in the School of Anthropology, University of Oxford; and Vice-President of the Evolution Institute.
Harvey Whitehouse is chair of Social Anthropology, director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, and a Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College at the University of Oxford.
Pieter Francois is Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution at the University of Oxford. He is research coordinator and senior researcher at the Centre for Anthropology and Mind and the Dean and Fellow in Anthropology at St. Benet’s Hall.
Kevin C. Feeney is a computer scientist in the Knowledge and Data Engineering Group, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.