A Macroscope for Global History: Seshat Global History Databank, a methodological overview
Digital Humanities Quarterly
The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
This article introduces the "Seshat: Global History" project, the methodology it is based upon and its potential as a tool for historians and other humanists. Seshat is a comprehensive dataset covering human cultural evolution since the Neolithic. The article describes in detail how the Seshat methodology and platform can be used to tackle big questions that play out over long time scales whilst allowing users to drill down to the detail and place every single data point both in its historic and historiographical context. Seshat thus offers a platform underpinned by a rigorous methodology to actually do longue durée history and the article argues for the need for humanists and social scientists to engage with data driven longue durée history. The article argues that Seshat offers a much-needed infrastructure in which different skill sets and disciplines can come together to analyze the past using long timescales. In addition to highlighting the theoretical and methodological underpinnings, Seshat's potential is demonstrated using three case studies. Each of these case studies is centred around a set of longstanding questions and historiographical debates and it is argued that the introduction of a Seshat approach has the potential to radically alter our understanding of these questions.
This work was supported by a John Templeton Foundation grant to the Evolution Institute, entitled "Axial-Age Religions and the Z-Curve of Human Egalitarianism," a Tricoastal Foundation grant to the Evolution Institute, entitled "The Deep Roots of the Modern World: The Cultural Evolution of Economic Growth and Political Stability," an ESRC Large Grant to the University of Oxford, entitled "Ritual, Community, and Conflict" (REF RES-060-25-0085), and a grant from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 644055 [ALIGNED, www.aligned-project.eu]). We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of our team of research assistants, post-doctoral researchers, consultants, and experts. Additionally, we have received invaluable assistance from our collaborators. Please see the Seshat website for a comprehensive list of private donors, partners, experts, and consultants and their respective areas of expertise.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations via the URL in this record.
Vol. 10 (4)