Harvey Whitehouse: Studying ritual may help us understand extremism

Why do people engage in self-sacrifice? Why would people adopt such an extreme behavior? Answering these questions has proven to be difficult for policy makers, world leaders, and academic researchers alike. Seshat founding editor and Oxford University scholar Professor Harvey Whitehouse recently offered several critical insights into the psychology of extremism at the IdeasLab session […]

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Experts reflect on their experiences working with Seshat: Global History Databank

In our quest to uncover cross-cultural patterns in a global range of historical cases, it is often impossible to go directly to the source of evidence. At Seshat: Global History Databank we try to do the next best thing- we go to the experts. We value the time and energy that our volunteer expert contributors […]

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Prof Harvey Whitehouse introduces Seshat: Global History Databank at World Economic Forum annual meeting

Seshat founding editor and University of Oxford anthropologist Professor Harvey Whitehouse recently spoke about rituals and Seshat: Global History Databank at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Whitehouse presented his research in a Betazone session in partnership with the Nature Publishing Group in a speech entitled “Why Facts Don’t Unify Us.” The […]

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Seshat is the premier tool to write longue-durée history and test social sciences theories comprehensively with historical data

A major paper on Seshat: Global History Databank has been published in Digital Humanities Quarterly. Lead author and Seshat founding editor Dr. Pieter François sees the publication as an important milestone in showcasing the potential of the project’s method to historians, digital humanists and the general public. I caught up with Dr François to discuss […]

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Testing the Axial Age

Last week the Seshat project ran a workshop on “Testing the Axial Age” in Oxford, UK. The workshop brought together a small group of scholars from different fields – historians, religious studies experts, archaeologists, and anthropologists. The goal was to discuss what exactly the ‘Axial Age’ means, and develop quantitative, data-based approaches to testing various […]

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A Call for the Development of Field Sites to Study Cultural Evolution

Seshat founding editor and Oxford University Professor Harvey Whitehouse, an anthropologist, and Seshat consultant and SUNY Binghamton Professor David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist, are both are members of the Cultural Evolution Society, which aims to “catalyze the study of cultural change from a modern evolutionary perspective, both inside and outside the Ivory Tower.” Wilson […]

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What Can Seshat Databank Do for Historians?

From the presentation by Peter Turchin, the Founding Editor and Overall Coordinator of Seshat Databank, at the annual American Historical Association meeting in Denver, CO; January 2017. Writing in 1999 in Perspectives on History Robert Darnton, who was the President of American Historical Association at the time, expressed the following opinion: After a century of […]

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New archaeological evidence proves Indus farmers grew rice in the Bronze Age

Seshat expert contributor and University of Cambridge fellow Dr. Cameron Petrie and colleagues recently unearthed evidence to confirm that the people of ancient Indus (modern-day Pakistan and northwest India) first practiced rice farming in the Bronze Age—much earlier than previously believed. The research was undertaken by the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology along with […]

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Alliances and patron-client relationships: a fixture in both ancient and modern complex societies

Alliances and patron-client relationships have helped support states since the beginning of social complexity. In a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Seshat contributor and Santa Fe Institute external professor Paula Sabloff analyzed equal alliances and patron-client relationships. Sabloff’s research was part of a John Templeton Foundation-funded project at the Santa Fe Institute. The project examined […]

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Chiefs Who Eat the Land: Images of Power in Hawai’i before and after Western Contact

The old Hawaiian term for the chief of a district or small island is ali’i ‘ai moku: ‘chief who eats the district’.[1] This had a literal meaning ‒ control over a district came with taxation rights over the crops and livestock of resident commoners ‒ but it also neatly expresses the indigenous conception of the […]

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