1933-parry.pdf: “Whole Formulaic Verses in Greek and Southslavic Heroic Song”, Milman Perry (1933):
In this essay on the method to be used in the comparative study of early poetries the view is set forth that the essential feature of such poetry is its oral form, and not such cultural likenesses as have been called “popular,” “primitive,” “natural,” or “heroic.” As an example of method those numerous cases are considered where we find both in Homer and in Southslavic heroic song a verse which expresses the same idea. The explanation is as follows. Oral poetry is largely composed out of fixed verses. Especially will ideas which recur with any frequency be expressed by a fixed verse. Thus where the two poetries express the same frequent idea they both tend to do it in just the length of a verse. Knowing this common feature in the oral form of the two poetries we can conclude that the extraordinary hold which heroic poetry has on the thought and conduct of the Southern Slavs provides us with an example of what heroic poetry must have been for the early Greeks.
1988-brightman.pdf: “The Windigo in the Material World”, Robert A. Brightman (1988-09):
Reconsideration of documentary evidence indicates that the Subarctic Algonquian windigo complex was of probable prehistoric inception, that a correlative psychiatric disorder entailing cannibalistic ideation and behavior is historically demonstrable, and that existing ecological explanations of the complex fail to elucidate its origin, persistence, characteristics, and distribution. Examination of the windigo complex from structural, pragmatic, and ideological perspectives suggests that instances of the psychiatric disorder were conditioned by Algonquian theories of dreaming and predestination.
1994-weschler.pdf: “Inhaling the spore: Field trip to a museum of natural (un)history”, Lawrence Weschler (1994-09-01):
[Description of a visit to an unusual science museum: the LA Museum of Jurassic Technology. Unlike most science museums, only some of the exhibits are genuine. The others are fakes, many made by the museum’s curator. The visitor is challenged to discern the fabulous from the fraudulent.] [Keywords: 20th century, California, Curiosities and wonders, David Hildebrand Wilson, Los Angeles, Museum of Jurassic Technology, Science museums, hoax, performance art, critical thinking]
1994-wilton.pdf: “Bearing the burden: The Great Toronto Stork Derby, 1926–1938”, Elizabeth Marjorie Wilton (1994):
The Great Toronto Stork Derby was a bizarre incident in Canadian history sparked by the death of a wealthy Toronto lawyer, Charles Vance Millar. In his will, Millar outlined the terms of a contest in which the woman in Toronto bearing the most children in the ten years following his death was to receive the bulk of his fortune. Millar died on October 31, 1926 and so began a competition that captivated the attention of the public in Canada for twelve years. In this competition poor, working class families participated in a high stakes gamble for Millar’s $6,012,212$500,0001926 estate.
“Bearing the Burden” attempts to dispel the popular perception of the event as humorous. It will demonstrate how the Derby became a crucible for many social and moral concerns of the day. The Derby will be used as a vehicle to explore attitudes towards reproduction, class, race and gender in Depression era Canada.
The introduction will provide an overview of the story as well as the structure of the paper. Chapter One sets the theoretical and temporal boundaries for the discussion and suggests why the Derby became the subject of a “moral panic”. Chapter Two explores the Ontario government’s failed escheat attempt in 1932. Chapter Three looks at the theme of newspaper voyeurism and the general circus-like atmosphere that developed around the event. Chapters Four and Five focus on the court hearings of 1936 through 1938. These hearings focused on the validity of the will and on what type of children could be included in the count. Much debate surrounded the possible inclusion of stillborn or illegitimate children. The conclusion shows how the Derby reflected contemporary social concerns and also that class was one of the most important factors in determining the outcome of the competition.
2000-sabin.pdf: “The Face of Roman Battle”, Philip Sabin (2000):
Our perspectives on ancient history can sometimes be significantly affected by contributions from scholars of other disciplines. An obvious example from the military field is Edward Luttwak’s 1976 book on The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. Luttwak is a respected and insightful commentator on modern strategic issues, and his distinctive contribution was to analyse Roman military affairs in terms of modern concepts such as ‘armed suasion’ and the distinction between ‘power’ and ‘force’. His book has prompted considerable debate among specialist ancient historians, and although much of this has been critical of his ideas (largely due to the alleged anachronism of applying them in the Roman context), there is no doubt that the injection of this new dimension has helped to influence subsequent thinking on Roman imperial defence.
2001-ziolo.pdf: “Joachim of Fiore and apocalyptic immanence”, 2001-09 (Paul Ziolo):
Apocalyptic envisionings of the historical process, whether philosophical, pseudo-scientific or incarnate as chiliastic movements have always been, and in all likelihood will continue to be, an integral dimension in the unfolding of the Euroamerican cultural chreod. This paper begins with some general observations on the genesis and character of apocalyptic movements, then proceeds to trace the psychological roots of Euroamerican apocalyptic thought as expressed in the Trinitarian-dualist formulations of Christian dogma, showing how the writings of the medieval Calabrian mystic Joachim of Fiore (c.1135–1202) created a synthesis of dynamic Trinitarianism and existential dualism within a framework of historical immanence. The resulting Joachimite ‘program’ later underwent further dissemination and distortion within the context of psychospeciation and finally led to the great totalitarian systems of the 20th century, thereby indirectly exercising an influence on the development of psychohistory itself as an independent discipline.
[Pesic discusses Peterson’s theory of Galileo’s focus on scaling laws in Two New Sciences as reflecting belated publication of a theory developed to analyze the physical possibility of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. Peterson suggests Galileo was embarrassed at having refuted his own arguments and shown it impossible, and simply delayed publishing to avoid attack.
Pesic suggests an additional consideration: religious Catholic orthodoxy of the sort Galileo would later run afoul of. By refuting even just Dante’s Hell, Galileo would cast some doubt on the official Catholic & Ptolemaic cosmologies, treating close to heresy.]
Though the exact location of hell was not a matter of faith, its existence was a tenet of Catholic belief and its negation thus heretical. Thus, in 1620 Giuseppe Rosaccio confidently described hell as being within the earth, noting that an enormous space was needed in view of the ever increasing number of the damned, who had no right to expect as much room as the blessed souls in heaven.14
2002-peterson.pdf: “Galileo’s discovery of scaling laws”, Mark A. Peterson (2002-05-13):
Galileo’s realization that nature is not scale invariant motivated his subsequent discovery of scaling laws. His thinking is traced to two lectures he gave on the geography of Dante’s Inferno…Looked at this way, Galileo’s lifelong reluctance to publish seems even more inexplicable, but perhaps this pattern began with the experience of the Inferno lectures. He seems to have done his best to make people forget the lectures, and he kept the scaling theory to himself. What he made public,at least in this case, was a source of trouble, while what he kept secret was a source of confidence. The unpleasantness of being vulnerable to attack is a lesson that he might have taken to heart then, and it is a view he expresses feelingly later on, on the basis of real experience (although without admitting vulnerability!), in the opening lines of The Assayer.17 Galileo frequently claims to have wonderful results that he has not yet revealed, things he has not yet chosen to disclose. We know that this was true through much of his career, and apparently it was true right from the start. Finally, it is an irony that the first success of Galileo’s mathematical physics, which is close to being the first success of mathematical physics at all, was a response to a problem that was not physical, but rather the collapse of an imaginary structure in a work of literature.
[Galileo’s Two New Sciences puzzlingly spends much of its material on the question of how large a ship or a beam of wood or a column of rock can become before collapsing, correctly arguing that the naive belief of scale-invariance (that a ship can be any size as long as it maintains the same geometric proportions) is wrong and that large ships or beams are impossible as they will collapse under their own weight. Why did Galileo, who hardly ever published, spend so much time on this rather than astronomy—especially when he appears to have conducted the scaling law research almost 30 years before?
Peterson digs up neglected lectures by a young and ambitious Galileo, at the court of the Medici, on the topic of Dante’s Inferno where he weighed in on a contemporary dispute between a fellow Florentine & a rival Italian about the size & geography of Hell (then still considered a real place located within the Earth). Galileo, assuming scale-invariance, defended & mathematically improved his fellow’s approach.
The scaling research, then, grew out of his doubts about his naive extrapolations, and he eventually refuted himself. In Renaissance Italy, science, being a patronage/
prestige-based endeavour heavily driven by entertainment value, Galileo would be incentivized to keep this research secret lest he embarrass himself, and to use as a weapon in the controversy. However, the dispute appears to have died out and he never had to reveal it, so, decades later, he then included it in Two New Sciences while sanitizing it of its embarrassing origins.]
2003-chambers.pdf: “S. L. A. Marshall's men against fire: New evidence regarding fire ratios”, John Whiteclay Chambers II (2003-09-01):
Chambers II discusses the findings of journalist-soldier S. L. A. Marshall about combat fire ratios particularly that in World War II. Marshall claimed that his figures about the ratio of fire, the proportion of a rifle unit firing its weapons in battle was derived from his group after-action interviews, a method he developed as a field historian in world War II and which as a civilian journalist, Reserve officer, and military consultant. Although the ratio-of-fire figure was his most famous product, Marshall was proudest of his methodology.
[Chambers interviews Frank L. Brennan, an assistant of Marshall during his Korea War after-action interview work, who accompanied him to every interview. Brennan described Marshall’s methodology as follows: the group interviews typically lasted about 2 hours at most; Marshall took few notes; Marshall preferred to ask open-ended questions and listen to the discussions; he rarely asked questions specifically about the rate of fire or whether a soldier had fired his weapon; he did not seem to collect any of the statistics he would later report in his books; and Marshall was evasive when Brennan asked about his WWII statistics’ sources. Brennan noted that in Marshall’s autobiography, Marshall greatly inflated his importance & the resources placed at his disposal in Korea, and the length of his interviews. Brennan also served in combat afterwards, and observed a high rate of fire in his own men.]
2005-strong.pdf: “Incest Laws and Absent Taboos in Roman Egypt”, Anise K. Strong (2005-01-01):
For at least two hundred and fifty years, many men in the Roman province of Egypt married their full sisters and raised families with them. During the same era, Roman law firmly banned close-kin marriages and denounced them both as nefas, or sacrilegious, and against the ius gentium, the laws shared by all civilized peoples. In Egypt, however, Roman officials deliberately chose not to enforce the relevant marriage laws among the Greek metic, hybrid, and native Egyptian populations; the bureaucracy also created loopholes within new laws which tolerated the practice. This policy created a gap between the absolute theoretical ban in Roman law and the reality of common incestuous unions in Egypt. Since Roman Egypt was both an important and a dangerous province, Rome needed both to pacify its people and to weaken Egypt’s status with its neighbors. By permitting incestuous marriages among non-Romans in Egypt, the Roman governors simultaneously pleased the local population while causing Jews and North Africans to hold their neighbor in contempt.
In conclusion, fencing tempo is a vital element of swordsmanship, but clearly for the duelist hitting before being hit is not at all the same thing as hitting without being hit. Exsanguination is the principal mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds and death by this means is seldom instantaneous. Although stab wounds to the heart are generally imagined to be instantly incapacitating, numerous modern medical case histories indicate that while victims of such wounds may immediately collapse upon being wounded, rapid disability from this type of wound is by no means certain. Many present-day victims of penetrating wounds involving the lungs and the great vessels of the thorax have also demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain physically active minutes to hours after their wounds were inflicted. These cases are consistent with reports of duelists who, subsequent to having been grievously or even mortally wounded through the chest, neck, or abdomen, nevertheless remained actively engaged upon the terrain and fully able to continue long enough to dispatch those who had wounded them.
…Early American motion pictures have frequently misrepresented virtually every aspect of authentic swordplay. This seems to have been especially true of the industry’s depiction of the manner in which swordsmen fell before the blades of their opponents. While anecdotes of duels may have been biased by politics or personal vanity, modern forensic medicine provides ample evidence to support historical accounts of gravely wounded duelists continuing in combats for surprising lengths of time, sometimes killing those who had killed them.
In the first installment of this essay modern forensic evidence indicated that exsanguination is the principal mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds, but that death by this means is seldom instantaneous; victims frequently capable of continued physical activity, even after being stabbed in the heart. Similarly, victims of sharp force injuries to the lungs are not infrequently able to carry on for protracted periods of time. Wounds which result in the introduction of blood into the upper airway, on the other hand, are likely to incapacitate and kill an adversary quite rapidly.
Duels featuring penetrating wounds to the muscles of the sword arm appear in some cases to have left duelists fully capable of manipulating their weapons. Thrusts to the thigh and leg may have been even less efficacious. Strokes with the cutting edges of swords to the limbs may result in more serious wounds to the musculature than the penetrating variety, but historical accounts of duels demonstrate that immediate incapacitation of an adversary stricken with such wounds was by no means guaranteed. Incising wounds which sever tendons, however, can be expected to immediately incapacitate the muscles from which they arise. Recent medical reports of sharp force injuries to the brain suggest that even a sword-thrust penetrating the skull ought not to have been expected always to disable an opponent instantaneously. While severe pain is usually incapacitating, the stress of combat may mask the pain of gravely serious wounds, enabling the determined duelist to remain on the ground for a considerable length of time.
The immediate consequences to a duelist of wounds inflicted by thrusts or cuts from the rapier, dueling sabre or smallsword were unpredictable. While historical anecdotes of affairs of honor and twentieth century medical reports show that many stabbing victims collapsed immediately upon being wounded, others did not. While a swordsman certainly gained no advantage for having been wounded, it cannot be said that an unscathed adversary, after having delivered a fatal thrust or cut, had no further concern for his safety. Duelists receiving serious and even mortal wounds were sometimes able to continue effectively in the combat long enough to take the lives of those who had taken theirs…For the duelist, however, another form of tempo had to be considered. In the early history of affairs of honor, this “dueling tempo” spanned the period extending from the moment that a wound was inflicted until the instant that the adversary was no longer able to continue effectively. This span of time was unpredictable in length and could be expressed in terms ranging from a fraction of a second to minutes. Considering the number and severity of wounds that were sustained by combatants in the early days of the duel, it would not be surprising to find that many duelists of latter days secretly breathed a sigh of relief when interrupted by seconds rushing in to terminate affairs of honor immediately upon the delivery of a well placed cut or thrust.
2007-keeley.pdf: “Baffles and Bastions: The Universal Features of Fortifications”, Lawrence H. Keeley, Marisa Fontana, Russell Quick (2007-03-01):
This article discusses several universal features of fortifications and distinguishes those features that are unequivocally military in function. The evidence adduced includes the features of known historic fortifications, relevant prescriptions by ancient military authors, and geometry. The archaeologically visible features that are universally used in military defenses are V-sectioned ditches, “defended” (especially baffled) gates, and bastions. It is also noted that ritual, ceremonial, or any other peaceful activities conducted within an enclosure having these architectural features does not preclude its obvious military function. [Keywords: ancient fortifications, warfare, prehistoric enclosures, pre-gunpowder weapons, symbolism, warfare, noble savage myth, prehistoric war, Crow Creek massacre]
2008-engen.pdf: “Killing For Their Country: A New Look at 'Killology'”, Robert Engen (2008-12-01):
It would appear, then, that Lieutenant Colonel Grossman’s appeals to biology and psychology are flawed, and that the bulwark of his historical evidence—S.L.A. Marshall’s assertion that soldiers do not fire their weapons—can be verifiably disproven. The theory of an innate, biological resistance to killing has little support in either evolutionary biology or in what we know about psychology, and, discounting Marshall’s claims, there is little basis in military history for such a theory either. This is not to say that all people can or will kill, or even that all soldiers can or will kill. Combat is staggeringly complex, an environment where human beings are pushed beyond all tolerable limits. There is much that we do not know, and plenty that we should be doing more to learn about. Grossman is clearly leading the way in posing these questions. Much of his work on the processes of killing and the relevance of physical distance to killing is extremely insightful. There is material in On Combat about fear, heart rate, and combat effectiveness that might be groundbreaking, and it should be studied carefully by historians trying to understand human behaviour in war. No disrespect to Lieutenant-Colonel Grossman is intended by this article, and it is not meant to devalue his work. I personally believe that some of the elements of his books, particularly the physiology of combat, would actually be strengthened if they were not shackled to the idea that humans cannot kill one another. But there are still questions that need to be asked, and the subject should not be considered closed. Grossman’s overall picture of killing in war and society is heavily informed by a belief in an innate human resistance to killing that, as has been offered here, does not stand up well to scrutiny. More research on the processes of human killing is needed, and although On Killing and On Combat form an excellent starting point, there are too many problems with their interpretation for them to be considered the final word on the subject. I believe that, in the future, the Canadian Forces needs to take a more critical posture when it comes to incorporating Grossman’s studies into its own doctrine. It is imperative that our nation’s military culture remain one devoted to pursuing the best available evidence at all costs, rather than one merely following the most popular consensus.
2009-mark.pdf: “The World's First Immunization Campaign: The Spanish Smallpox Vaccine Expedition, 1803–1813”, Catherine Mark, José G. Rigau-Pérez (2009):
Smallpox produced the death of up to 30% of those infected, so Jenner’s preventive method spread quickly. The Spanish government designed and supported a ten-year effort to carry smallpox vaccine to its American and Asian territories in a chain of arm-to-arm vaccination of children. An expedition directed by Doctor Francisco Xavier de Balmis sailed from Corunna in November 1803, stopping in the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Balmis led a subexpedition to Cuba, Mexico, and the Philippines; his assistants returned to Mexico in 1807, while Balmis took vaccine to China and returned to Spain (and again to Mexico, 1810–1813). Vice-director José Salvany and his staff took vaccine to present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chilean Patagonia. The Spanish Royal Philanthropic Vaccine Expedition shows the first attempts to solve questions still important for the introduction of new immunizations—professionalization in public health, technology transfer, protection of research subjects, and evaluation of vaccine efficacy, safety, and cost. [Keywords: smallpox, vaccination, Balmis-Salvany expedition, Spanish America, public health, technology transfer]
2011-connell.pdf: “The Eternity of the World and Renaissance Historical Thought”, William J. Connell (2011-01-01):
This essay suggests that the Renaissance revolution in historical thought was encouraged by contemporary debates over the Aristotelian-Averroistic doctrine of the eternity of the world. In the early Renaissance eternalism came to be understood as a proposition with controversial consequences not only for the creation of matter ex nihilo but also for the record of historical time. Modern scholarship, following Momigliano, believes that understandings of time had little effect on the practice of ancient historians. But that was not the view of Orosius, the most widely read historian during the Middle Ages, who condemned the pagan historians for their eternalism. Nor was it the view of the Italian humanists who, after reading the Greek historians, abandoned the providentialism of Orosius and revived ancient ways of writing history.
2011-laycock.pdf: “Levitating the Pentagon: Exorcism as Politics, Politics as Exorcism”, Joseph P. Laycock (2011):
On 21 October 1967 Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, and Ed Sanders of the band The Fugs, and others, organized an “exorcism” of the Pentagon in which several thousand demonstrators participated. Most historians have regarded this event as “a put on” or at best as “performance art.” This article takes seriously the nominal status of the ritual as a “sacred” or “magical” event. It argues that the organizers were utilizing innovative strategies of social action to alter the terms of debate regarding the Vietnam War. In as much as these strategies drew on “secret” insights into the nature of social reality, they were seen as “magical” and in continuity with pre-modern esoteric traditions. Finally, it is argued that the new left turned to such tactics out of a deep frustration with traditional forms of democratic political engagement. [The organizers asked the GSA for a permit to lift it 300 feet in the air. GSA held the line and authorized only 3 feet.]
2012-woodberry.pdf: “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy”, dvips(k) 5.95a Copyright 2005 Radical Eye Software (2012):
This article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. Statistically, the historic prevalence of Protestant missionaries explains about half the variation in democracy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania and removes the impact of most variables that dominate current statistical research about democracy. The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses.
2013-volk.pdf: “Infant and child death in the human environment of evolutionary adaptation”, Anthony A. Volk, Jeremy A. Atkinson (2013-05-01):
The precise quantitative nature of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA) is difficult to reconstruct. The EEA represents a multitude of different geographic and temporal environments, of which a large number often need to be surveyed in order to draw sound conclusions.
We examine a large number of both hunter-gatherer (n = 20) and historical (n = 43) infant and child mortality rates to generate a reliable quantitative estimate of their levels in the EEA. Using data drawn from a wide range of geographic locations, cultures, and times, we estimate that approximately 27% of infants failed to survive their first year of life, while approximately 47.5% of children failed to survive to puberty across in the EEA. These rates represent a serious selective pressure faced by humanity that may be underappreciated by many evolutionary psychologists. Additionally, a cross-species comparison found that human child mortality rates are roughly equivalent to Old World monkeys, higher than orangutan or bonobo rates and potentially higher than those of chimpanzees and gorillas.
These findings are briefly discussed in relation to life history theory and evolved adaptations designed to lower high childhood mortality. [Keywords: environment of evolutionary adaptedness, human evolution, infant mortality, child mortality]
2014-cust.pdf: “Charles I's Noble Academy”, Richard Cust (2014-12-01):
This article investigates the noble academy, known as the Musaeum Minervae, established by Sir Francis Kynaston in Covent Garden in 1635–1636. Drawing on a newly discovered manifesto in which Kynaston set out the case for his academy—a transcript of which is provided as an appendix—it analyses the aims behind the project, in the context of earlier English academy schemes, the nature and scope of its activities and the reasons for its collapse. Throughout the academy’s existence, Charles I provided substantial support and took a close interest in its fortunes, treating it as part of a wider project to strengthen the English aristocracy and make them fit servants of his monarchy.
2014-fukuyama.pdf: “America in Decay: The Sources of Political Dysfunction”, Francis Fukuyama (2014-09-01):
[Why is American politics so increasingly dysfunctional: less and less legislation passes on increasingly partisan grounds leading to gridlock, ever more matters are decided by judicial fiat, the imperial presidency expands to fill the vacuum, and every presidential election is more cutthroat and extreme than the one before it as controlling the presidency & Supreme Court nominations is seen as matters nothing short of existential survival.
Fukuyama diagnoses a major falloff in American state capacity, caused by its original design of checks-and-balances: a system which was perhaps reasonable centuries ago has been pushed to its limits as the USA has grown orders of magnitude larger in population, geographic size, and societal complexity, while the old system of amendments etc has fallen apart. Major legal changes, like gay marriage, which should have happened by constitutional amendment, instead are imposed (in striking contrast to more functional parliamentary democracies like France/
Germany/ UK—it is no accident that so few new democracies choose to emulate the USA’s Constitution). In response, empowered by ‘elastic clauses’, a hidden constitution of bureaucracies, administrative law, and courts has replaced it.
This replacement, however, has never been made explicit: obsolete old institutions persist, new missions and constraints are larded onto institutions, more and more interest groups and classes of favored insiders protect the status quo creating a “vetocracy”, and the lack of legitimacy and explicit authority means that decisions are never final, and anyone can use the fickle slow courts at any time to launch a new attack on what ought to have been decided already (or at least obstruct it). The responses to these pathologies, however, are themselves pathological, adding ever more restrictive and inconsistent rules. This further undermines public trust and participation.
Because of this, agreements are never final, political bargains cannot be enforced under winner-take-all conditions, and capture of the judiciary and executive branch become the supreme priority. Precisely because of the vetocracy and failed formal institutions, reform within the system become nearly impossible. The vested interests benefit too much and are not motivated to reform it.]
The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition an galvanize it into action.
2018-wang.pdf: “Sons and Lovers: Political Stability in China and Europe Before the Great Divergence”, Yuhua Wang (2018-10-25):
Rulers’ long duration in the medieval period had contributed to the rise of Europe. But what explained premodern ruler duration? While the extant answers focus on formal, political institutions, I examine the role of marriage and inheritance norms in affecting ruler survival. Using a novel dataset of over 1,000 monarchs in China and Europe from 1000 to 1800 CE, I obtain two findings that have been overlooked by the existing literature. First, contrary to the view that European rulers had exceptional stability, I find that Chinese monarchs stayed in power longer than their European counterparts. Second, I find a strong effect of family practices on ruler survival. More liberal marriage and inheritance norms provided Chinese emperors with sustained availability of male heirs, which reduced palace coups. But the Church’s control of royal marriage and inheritance in Europe decreased the number of male heirs, which increased the probability of a deposition. [Keywords: Ruler duration, succession politics, informal institutions, China, Europe]
2019-gold.pdf: “Ancient Egypt and the geological antiquity of man, 1847–1863”, Meira Gold (2018-09-30):
The 1850s through early 60s was a transformative period for nascent studies of the remote human past in Britain, across many disciplines. Naturalists and scholars with Egyptological knowledge fashioned themselves as authorities to contend with this divisive topic. In a characteristic case of long-distance fieldwork, British geologist Leonard Horner employed Turkish-born, English-educated, Cairo-based engineer Joseph Hekekyan to measure Nile silt deposits around pharaonic monuments in Egypt to address the chronological gap between the earliest historical and latest geological time. Their conclusion in 1858 that humans had existed in Egypt for exactly 13,371 years was the earliest attempt to apply geological stratigraphy to absolute human dates. The geochronology was particularly threatening to biblical orthodoxy, and the work raised private and public concerns about chronological expertise and methodology, scriptural and scientific authority, and the credibility of Egyptian informants. This essay traces these geo-archaeological investigations; including the movement of paper records, Hekekyan’s role as a go-between, and the publication’s reception in Britain. The diverse reactions to the Egyptian research reveal competing ways of knowing the prehistoric past and highlights mid-Victorian attempts to reshape the porous boundaries between scholarly studies of human antiquity. [Keywords: Ancient Egypt, geology, archaeology, ethnology, fieldwork, prehistory, human antiquity, biblical chronology, Victorian]
2019-montgomery.pdf: “Signals of strength: Capability demonstrations and perceptions of military power”, Evan Braden Montgomery (2019-06-14):
States often use demonstrations to improve perceptions of their military power. This topic has received limited attention in the literature, which typically assumes that states disguise or downplay their capabilities, advertise them only to enhance their prestige, or use demonstrations to communicate interests and resolve. Because military strength can be difficult to gauge, however, successful deterrence and assurance can require demonstrations to ensure that capabilities are viewed as credible. This article explains the logic of capability demonstrations, identifies the conditions under which they have the most utility, introduces a typology of demonstration mechanisms, and describes how emerging technology influences demonstrations. [Keywords: signalling, demonstrations, military power, emerging technology]
2019-risi.pdf: “Predicting History”, Joseph Risi, Amit Sharma, Rohan Shah, Matthew Connelly, Duncan J. Watts (2019-06-03):
Can events be accurately described as historic at the time they are happening? Claims of this sort are in effect predictions about the evaluations of future historians; that is, that they will regard the events in question as important. Here we provide empirical evidence in support of earlier philosophical arguments1 that such claims are likely to be spurious and that, conversely, many events that will one day be viewed as historic attract little attention at the time. We introduce a conceptual and methodological framework for applying machine learning prediction models to large corpora of digitized historical archives. We find that although such models can correctly identify some historically important documents, they tend to over-predict historical importance while also failing to identify many documents that will later be deemed important, where both types of error increase monotonically with the number of documents under consideration. On balance, we conclude that historical importance is extremely difficult to predict, consistent with other recent work on intrinsic limits to predictability in complex social systems2,3. However, the results also indicate the feasibility of developing ‘artificial archivists’ to identify potentially historic documents in very large digital corpora.
2020-cunen.pdf: “Statistical sightings of better angels: Analysing the distribution of battle-deaths in interstate conflict over time”, Céline Cunen, Nils Lid Hjort,, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2020-02-20):
Have great wars become less violent over time, and is there something we might identify as the long peace? We investigate statistical versions of such questions, by examining the number of battle-deaths in the Correlates of War dataset, with 95 interstate wars from 1816 to 2007. Previous research has found this series of wars to be stationary, with no apparent change over time. We develop a framework to find and assess a change-point in this battle-deaths series. Our change-point methodology takes into consideration the power law distribution of the data, models the full battle-deaths distribution, as opposed to focusing merely on the extreme tail, and evaluates the uncertainty in the estimation. Using this framework, we find evidence that the series has not been as stationary as past research has indicated. Our statistical sightings of better angels indicate that 1950 represents the most likely change-point in the battle-deaths series—the point in time where the battle-deaths distribution might have changed for the better.
2020-hassner.pdf: “The Cost of Torture: Evidence from the Spanish Inquisition”, Ron E. Hassner (2020-05-13):
Empirical evidence on contemporary torture is sparse. The archives of the Spanish Inquisition provide a detailed historical source of quantitative and qualitative information about interrogational torture. The inquisition tortured brutally and systematically, willing to torment all who it deemed as withholding evidence. This torture yielded information that was often reliable: witnesses in the torture chamber and witnesses that were not tortured provided corresponding information about collaborators, locations, events, and practices. Nonetheless, inquisitors treated the results of interrogations in the torture chamber with skepticism. This bureaucratized torture stands in stark contrast to the “ticking bomb” philosophy that has motivated US torture policy in the aftermath of 9/
11. Evidence from the archives of the Spanish Inquisition suggests torture affords no middle ground: one cannot improvise quick, amateurish, and half-hearted torture sessions, motivated by anger and fear, and hope to extract reliable intelligence.
Intrauterine contraceptive devices, sterilizations, and forced family separations: since a sweeping crackdown starting in late 2016 transformed Xinjiang into a draconian police state (China Brief, September 21, 2017), witness accounts of intrusive state interference into reproductive autonomy have become ubiquitous. While state control over reproduction has long been a common part of the birth control regime in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the situation in Xinjiang has become especially severe following a policy of mass internment initiated in early 2017 (China Brief, May 15, 2018) by officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
For the first time, the veracity and scale of these anecdotal accounts can be confirmed through a systematic analysis of government documents. The research findings of this report specifically demonstrate the following:
- Natural population growth in Xinjiang has declined dramatically; growth rates fell by 84% in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in several minority regions in 2019. For 2020, one Uyghur region set an unprecedented near-zero birth rate target: a mere 1.05 per mille, compared to 19.66 per mille in 2018. This was intended to be achieved through “family planning work.”
- Government documents bluntly mandate that birth control violations are punishable by extrajudicial internment in “training” camps. This confirms evidence from the leaked “Karakax List” document, wherein such violations were the most common reason for internment (Journal of Political Risk, February 2020).
- Documents from 2019 reveal plans for a campaign of mass female sterilization in rural Uyghur regions, targeting 14 and 34% of all married women of childbearing age in two Uyghur counties that year. This project targeted all of southern Xinjiang, and continued in 2020 with increased funding. This campaign likely aims to sterilize rural minority women with three or more children, as well as some with two children—equivalent to at least 20% of all childbearing-age women. Budget figures indicate that this project had sufficient funding for performing hundreds of thousands of tubal ligation sterilization procedures in 2019 and 2020, with least one region receiving additional central government funding. In 2018, a Uyghur prefecture openly set a goal of leading its rural populations to accept widespread sterilization surgery.
- By 2019, Xinjiang planned to subject at least 80% of women of childbearing age in the rural southern four minority prefectures to intrusive birth prevention surgeries (IUDs or sterilizations), with actual shares likely being much higher. In 2018, 80% of all net added IUD placements in China (calculated as placements minus removals) were performed in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the region only makes up 1.8% of the nation’s population.
- Shares of women aged 18 to 49 who were either widowed or in menopause have more than doubled since the onset of the internment campaign in one particular Uyghur region. These are potential proxy indicators for unnatural deaths (possibly of interned husbands), and/
or of injections given in internment that can cause temporary or permanent loss of menstrual cycles.
- Between 2015 and 2018, about 860,000 ethnic Han residents left Xinjiang, while up to 2 million new residents were added to Xinjiang’s Han majority regions. Also, population growth rates in a Uyghur region where Han constitute the majority were nearly 8 times higher than in the surrounding rural Uyghur regions (in 2018). These figures raise concerns that Beijing is doubling down on a policy of Han settler colonialism.
2021-norris.pdf: “Why are there Seven Sisters?”, Rap P. Norris, Barnaby R. M. Norris (2021-03-01):
There are two puzzles surrounding the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. First, why are the mythological stories surrounding them, typically involving 7 young girls being chased by a man associated with the constellation Orion, so similar in vastly separated cultures, such as the Australian Aboriginal cultures and Greek mythology? Second, why do most cultures call them “Seven Sisters” even though most people with good eyesight see only 6 stars? Here we show that both these puzzles may be explained by a combination of the great antiquity of the stories combined with the proper motion of the stars, and that these stories may predate the departure of most modern humans out of Africa around 100,000 BC. [Keywords: Aboriginal astronomy, ethnoastronomy, history of astronomy]