Seshat: Global History Databank (Seshat) and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) are teaming up to explore a critical issue facing all human societies, past and present: how can we achieve a stable, lasting peace?
Together, Seshat and IEP are working on developing a Historical Peace Index (HPI). The purpose of the HPI is to track long term trends in peace and conflict and to allow comparisons across regions over time. The HPI is modelled on the IEP’s Global Peace Index (GPI) reports (e.g. Figure 1), which has been ranking modern independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness since 2007. The GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness, using comprehensive data-driven analysis on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies
By bringing the ‘Seshat Approach‘ to this topic, we aim to add a deep historical dimension to the IEP’s measures of peacefulness in the modern world. In this way, we believe we will be able to better understand how, where, and why violence has increased or declined in different parts of the world over time. Linking the HPI and GPI together will offer unique insights into the deep structural dynamics that have led to the current state of world peacefulness, pointing the way for innovative, effective solutions to some of the seemingly intractable conflicts persisting around the globe today.
At a recent workshop held in Oxford University, researchers from the IEP and Seshat project got together to plan out building the HPI. It was apparent from the start that there is a lot of synergy between the two projects, and there is definitely a wealth of historical information on peacefulness, violence, and various measures of well-being waiting to be collected, structured, and systematically analyzed.
For instance, using data collected and stored as part of the Seshat project, we can get some preliminary impressions about the variability in the degree of militarization experienced by polities occupying the region of Elam/Susiana in the very long term (Figure 2). Although this data has not been fully vetted and checked, it is clear that there are peaks and troughs in the levels of militarization—likely both responding to as well as helping to foment periods of increasing violence—over the years. Note also a clear decline in militarization from the Medieval period leading to early modern times, when our data stops; we need, then, to explain when and why this trend reversed once more, leading to the more
recent rising of militarization in the region and throughout Southwest Asia.