An Exploration of Historical Transitions with Simple Analogies and Empirical Event Rates

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David J. LePoire


Various qualitative models have been suggested for major historical social and technological transitions.  Many of these transitions still have puzzling aspects such as the early transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculturally-based society which required dramatically increased effort.  Another puzzle is the emergence of the scientific and industrial revolution in Europe despite many previous similar discoveries in other regions.  Explorations of simple models with aggregate, dynamic, and nonlinear processes might lead to insights of the unique aspects of each transition.  Topics include the transitions between hunter-gatherers, agricultural societies, early civilizations, market development, capitalism, industrialization, and sustainable societies with factors of land-pressures, economies of scale, suppressed growth, and chain reactions.

Many types of models could be applied to these transitions.  First, basic characteristics, such as width and midpoint of the transitions, are determined by analyzing historical events contributing to the transition. However, this does give much insight into the dynamics or parameters of the transition.  For more understanding, each of six transitions is explored with a simple phenomenological model. These simplified models do not attempt to quantitatively address the details of the actual historical mechanisms  Instead analogies to more natural systems are invoked to gain insights.

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