8       History as Cultural Evolution

                        ‘the forces that shape us are thus, in part, of our own making.”

p. 168.

Terms | Outline | Paradox | Maps | History | Summary


agriculture, technical capacity >,  microevolutionary factors, faith, paradox, the long view (le longe duree) vs short-term vision, proximate, underlying, cause and effect, awareness, social tension, social drag & cultural lag, action, means and end, structural inertia, institutional impediments, purposeful life.

“Only human beings have evolved a sense of history, and a sense that history matters.”

p. 158


Farming practices in Northern China generate these land-use patterns

     Overview {158

            Distinguishing similar and divergent cultural paths


            Beginnings of history {162

                                               i.     Herodotus (485 – 425 BCE) history is a story of different ethnic enclaves in specific geographical settings


                                             ii.     China: continuity of Dynastic succession & change history is the account of the emperors accomplishments and the civil service's guide to understanding the will of heaven.

Chinese population

                                            iii.     Giambattista Vico and Johann Gustav von Herder

.    Standards of history: cause and effect, consequences   {163

.           Impossibility to compare the results of historical sequences


.        The Paradox of culture {168

                  Cultural continuity can be good but also lead to disaster {168

                  Cultural stickiness (lag or drag)

persistent reinforcement of actions, in spite of their consequences {168-170

                                    failure to change in response to an altered environment” {170


“whereas at other times cultural continuity can lead to disaster....One can see the paradox clearly in times of stress.”  P. 168.

“Consideration of any significant aspect of history shows that numerous levels of analysis are usually necessary to get a reasonable grasp of causes and consequences.”  

how our non-genetic information has interacted with diverse social and biophysical environments to make us lords of Earth.”

P. 171.

"Numerous levels of analysis are usually necessary to get a reasonable grasp of causes and consequences."

Š      The fit of leaders to the challenges of their times–British officers and rigidity in North African war.

Š      The tensions among competing social norms–need for immigrant labor, ethnic prejudice–Women's work, gender equity.

Š      Strategic vision to afford tactical flexibility–some leaders possess it and when lost society flounders, Tito, Mussolini, Putin.

Š      Resource bottlenecks–some materials: rare earth or copper are essential ingredients for electronics, silicon.



“We bring to history the preconceptions of our personalities and of our age [era or generation]”

p. 171

Americans and the Tidal Seas



Ecological terms | Words | Readings | Vocabulary | Description | Overview | Assignments | Lectures | Graphics & media | Grades

technology index learn science index learn gene index learn social science index learn photograph index learn Darwin Index