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Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall

Why States Rise and Fall

Peter Turchin

Many historical processes are dynamic. Populations grow and decline. Empires expand and collapse. Religions spread and wither. Natural scientists have made great strides in understanding dynamical processes in the physical and biological worlds using a synthetic approach that combines mathematical modeling with statistical analyses. Taking up the problem of territorial dynamics--why some polities at certain times expand and at other times contract--this book shows that a similar research program can advance our understanding of dynamical processes in history.

Peter Turchin develops hypotheses from a wide range of social, political, economic, and demographic factors: geopolitics, factors affecting collective solidarity, dynamics of ethnic assimilation/religious conversion, and the interaction between population dynamics and sociopolitical stability. He then translates these into a spectrum of mathematical models, investigates the dynamics predicted by the models, and contrasts model predictions with empirical patterns. Turchin's highly instructive empirical tests demonstrate that certain models predict empirical patterns with a very high degree of accuracy. For instance, one model accounts for the recurrent waves of state breakdown in medieval and early modern Europe. And historical data confirm that ethno-nationalist solidarity produces an aggressively expansive state under certain conditions (such as in locations where imperial frontiers coincide with religious divides). The strength of Turchin's results suggests that the synthetic approach he advocates can significantly improve our understanding of historical dynamics.

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Historical Evidence and Argument

David Henige

Historians know about the past because they examine the evidence. But what exactly is “evidence,” how do historians know what it means—and how can we trust them to get it right? Historian David Henige tackles such questions of historical reliability head-on in his skeptical, unsparing, and acerbically witty Historical Evidence and Argument. “Systematic doubt” is his watchword, and he practices what he preaches through a variety of insightful assessments of historical controversies—for example, over the dating of artifacts and the textual analysis of translated documents. Skepticism, Henige contends, forces us to recognize the limits of our knowledge, but is also a positive force that stimulates new scholarship to counter it.

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The Historiography of Communism

Michael E. Brown

In this fresh appraisal of communism and anti-communism, with an emphasis on the American case, respected scholar Michael E. Brown examines the methods, controversies and difficulties involved in writing the history of communism. Arguing that one important way of understanding communism—other than as a concrete political or ideological force—is as an expression of an essentially reflexive aspect of society that typically manifests itself in social movements. In this regard, Brown understands the history of communism as part of the history of society. Examining works by E. P. Thompson, Karl Marx, and Pierre Clastres, Brown develops the idea of history as an immanent feature of human activities. Taken together, the essays in this book—written over a period of 20 years–offer a distinctive approach to the connections between social theory, criticism, and historiography and to what is “social” about “social movements.”

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History and Its Objects

Antiquarianism and Material Culture since 1500

Peter N. Miller

Cultural history is increasingly informed by the history of material culture—the ways in which individuals or entire societies create and relate to objects both mundane and extraordinary—rather than on textual evidence alone. Books such as The Hare with Amber Eyes and A History of the World in 100 Objects indicate the growing popularity of this way of understanding the past. In History and Its Objects, Peter N. Miller uncovers the forgotten origins of our fascination with exploring the past through its artifacts by highlighting the role of antiquarianism—a pursuit ignored and derided by modem academic history—in grasping the significance of material culture.

From the efforts of Renaissance antiquarians, who reconstructed life in the ancient world from coins, inscriptions, seals, and other detritus, to amateur historians in the nineteenth century working within burgeoning national traditions, Miller connects collecting—whether by individuals or institutions—to the professionalization of the historical profession, one which came to regard its progenitors with skepticism and disdain. The struggle to articulate the value of objects as historical evidence, then, lies at the heart both of academic history-writing and of the popular engagement with things. Ultimately, this book demonstrates that our current preoccupation with objects is far from novel and reflects a human need to reexperience the past as a physical presence.

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History in Africa

Vol. 32 (2005) through current issue

History In Africa: A Journal of Method focuses on historiographical and methodological concerns and publishes textual analysis and criticism, historiographical essays, bibliographical essays, archival reports and articles on the role of theory and non-historical data in historical investigation. Published Annually.

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History Is a Contemporary Literature

Manifesto for the Social Sciences

Ivan Jablonka<BR>translated by Nathan J. Bracher

Ivan Jablonka’s History Is a Contemporary Literature offers highly innovative perspectives on the writing of history, the relationship between literature and the social sciences, and the way that both social-scientific inquiry and literary explorations contribute to our understanding of the world. Jablonka argues that the act and art of writing, far from being an afterthought in the social sciences, should play a vital role in the production of knowledge in all stages of the researcher’s work and embody or even constitute the understanding obtained. History (along with sociology and anthropology) can, he contends, achieve both greater rigor and wider audiences by creating a literary experience through a broad spectrum of narrative modes.

Challenging scholars to adopt investigative, testimonial, and other experimental writing techniques as a way of creating and sharing knowledge, Jablonka envisions a social science literature that will inspire readers to become actively engaged in understanding their own pasts and to relate their histories to the present day. Lamenting the specialization that has isolated the academy from the rest of society, History Is a Contemporary Literature aims to bring imagination and audacity into the practice of scholarship, drawing on the techniques of literature to strengthen the methods of the social sciences.

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The Holocaust and the West German Historians

Historical Interpretation and Autobiographical Memory

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Housewives and citizens

Domesticity and the women’s movement in England, 1928–64

Caitriona Beaumont

After an extremely successful debut in hardback, Housewives and citizens is now available in paperback for the first time. This book explores the contribution that five conservative, voluntary and popular women’s organisations made to women’s lives and to the campaign for women’s rights throughout the period 1928–64. The book challenges existing histories of the women’s movement that suggest the movement went into decline during the inter-war period, only to be revived by the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s. It is argued that the term 'women’s movement' must be revised to allow a broader understanding of female agency encompassing feminist, political, religious and conservative women’s groups who campaigned to improve the status of women throughout the twentieth century. The book provides a radical re-assessment of this period of women’s history and in doing so makes a significant contribution to ongoing debates about the shape and impact of the women’s movement in twentieth-century Britain.

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In Good Company

The Church as Polis

Stanley Hauerwas

By exposing a different account of politics—the church as polis and "counterstory" to the world's politics—Stanley Hauerwas helps Christians to recognize the unifying beliefs and practices that make them a political entity apart from the rest of the world.

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Inside the Confederate Nation

Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas

edited by Lesley J. Gordon and John C. Inscoe

In The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience (1970) and The Confederate Nation (1979), Emory Thomas redefined the field of Civil War history and reconceptualized the Confederacy as a unique entity fighting a war for survival. Inside the Confederate Nation honors his enormous contributions to the field with fresh interpretations of all aspects of Confederate life—nationalism and identity, family and gender, battlefront and home front, race, and postwar legacies and memories. Many of the volume's twenty essays focus on individuals, households, communities, and particular regions of the South, highlighting the sheer variety of circumstances southerners faced over the course of the war. Other chapters explore the public and private dilemmas faced by diplomats, policy makers, journalists, and soldiers within the new nation. All of the essays attempt to explain the place of southerners within the Confederacy, how they came to see themselves and others differently because of secession, and the disparities between their expectations and reality.

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