The Deep Roots of the Modern World: Investigating the Cultural Evolution of Economic Growth and Political Stability

There is no question that today there is a staggering degree of variation in economic performance and effectiveness of governance among nations. Understanding the causes of these disparities is one of the greatest intellectual puzzles in the social sciences, and one of the most pressing problems for economic policy.

This research project seeks to test various hypotheses about long-term historical causes of economic growth and political stability through the exploration of factors that may have been integral to these processes in different societies throughout history, stretching all the way back to the Neolithic period in some areas (ca. 4th millennium BCE).

The Seshat Global History Databank allows us to directly test rival theories that invoke historical institutions, technological development, and ecological/geographical factors as explanations of long-term economic growth and political stability.
Our investigation into long-term dynamics of economic performance focuses on the following areas:

  • resources (agricultural productivity, environmental effects)
  • political and economic institutions (e.g. protection against expropriation, and constraints on executive power)
  • cultural traits (notably the ability of people to cooperate and trust each other without resorting to third-party enforcement)
  • technologies (especially productivity-enhancing ones)