Peter Turchin

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Project Seshat (named for the Egyptian goddess of history) is another major cross-cultural project funded by NSF (Turchin et al. 2015, Currie et al. 2015) – but in this case oriented to world historical empires coded for successive centuries.
Turchin (2014): In 2011, the research consortium on Ritual, Community, and Conflict, led by the co-editor of SESHAT, Harvey Whitehouse, was funded by a large grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC; UK). Part of this grant was earmarked for the development of the SESHAT databank, with a focus on social complexity, warfare, and ritual variables. Since early 2014, additional work at SESHAT has been made possible due to generous support from the Tricoastal Foundation for the project The Deep Roots of the Modern World: Investigating the Cultural Evolution of Economic Growth and Political Stability (Co-PIs: Peter Turchin and Tom Currie). Later in 2014, we received a large grant from the John Templeton Foundation for Axial-Age Religions and the Z-Curve of Human Egalitarianism (Co-PIs: Peter Turchin, Tom Currie, and Harvey Whitehouse). These two grants allowed us to expand the list of coded variables to include agriculture and resources; legal, political, and cultural institutions; equality/inequality (forms of structural inequality, equity-promoting social norms, especially those that are religiously motivated); and economic productivity and well-being. Additionally, the new grants have allowed us to intensify data collection across the whole spectrum of variables due to synergistic spillovers (when coding a specific society’s institutions, for example, research assistants simultaneously encounter information about other related variables, e.g., social complexity).
Early 2015 will see a new phase of the SESHAT database implementation; by the end of 2016 the data will be migrated to an RDF database (resource description framework, also known as a ‘TripleStore’). This development is a result of new funding from the EC Horizon 2020 program to create a research consortium that includes several members of the SESHAT team, led by the computer scientist Rob Brennan at Trinity College Dublin. The project, entitled ALIGNED: Quality-Centric Software and Data Engineering, will start in February 2015 and will use the SESHAT project as a rich, real-world case study for testing the tools developed by the ALIGNED consortium for collecting and curating high-quality historical and archaeological data.
Abstract: Agricultural productivity, and its variation in space and time, plays a fundamental role in many theories of human social evolution. However, we often lack systematic information about theproductivity of past agricultural systems on a large enough scale in order to be able to test thesetheories properly. The effect of climate on crop yields has received a great deal of attention resulting in a range of empirical and process-based models, yet the focus has primarily been on...

Santa Fe 2014 May

May 9th Days Inn Apple Watch?

I hope you are looking forward as much as I am to our upcoming working group. I wanted you to know that the wiki page now has the agenda posted for you to examine:

If you see any problems or have particular topics you would like to have us address, please let me know.


NSF Proposal 2013

- Concordance in Macrohistorical Datasets

Peter on Twitter - UCI Talk Wed May 28 2014 - Google schoiar

Carel van Schaik, Pieter Francois, Herbert Gintis, Daniel Haun, Daniel J. Hruschka, Marco A. Janssen, James A. Kitts, Laurent Lehmann, Sarah Mathew, Peter J. Richerson, Peter Turchin, Polly Wiessner. “Cultural Evolution of the Structure of Human Groups” Cultural Evolution. Cambridge, MIT Press, 2014.

Followiing messages from Doug and other materials (talk) 10:29, 10 February 2013 (PST) The more I delve into these issues, the more I doubt the standard anthropological scenario that has a unidirectional causal arrow going from resources => population density => social complexity. With our database we will be able to test feedback loops from social complexity => resources + population density. -- Peter
Peter Turchin

Father: Valentin Turchin


The Turchin Model

Turchin, Peter. 2005. Dynamical Feedbacks between Population Growth and Sociopolitical Instability in Agrarian States pdf.;volume=1;issue=1 Structure and Dynamics] 1(1) Art 2 (eJournal).

Turchin, Peter. 2005. A Primer on Statistical Analysis of Dynamical Systems in Historical Social Sciences (with a Particular Emphasis on Secular Cycles).;volume=1;issue=1 Structure and Dynamics] 1(1) (eJournal).

Rapid Discovery

Turchin et al: Historical Database. Cliodynamics (2012) Vol 3, Iss 2 285-286:

Some years ago Randall Collins (1994) pointed out that the natural sciences are typically characterized by rapid discovery of new phenomena and a high degree of consensus among the practitioners, once the research front has moved away. For example, biologists generally agree that Darwin’s version of the evolutionary theory has decisively won over that of Lamarck. The social sciences, by contrast, exhibit low levels of consensus even on core issues. Each new generation of scholars is as likely to reject the ideas of their predecessors as to endorse them. Collins argued that rapid discovery and high consensus are related: “high consensus results because there is higher social prestige in moving ahead to new research discoveries than by continuing to dispute the interpretation of older discoveries.”
Although Collins was skeptical about the ability of social science to break out of this mold and transform itself into a rapid-discovery science, we think that he was unduly pessimistic. Consider the anthropological database called the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, or SCCS (Murdock and White 1969). The SCCS codes 186 cultures for a great variety of social, economic, and political variables. The introduction of this database was a truly transformative event in cross-cultural research. It held out the prospect of transforming cultural anthropology into rapid-discovery science characterized not by cyclic development (in which each new generation rejects the insights of their elders) but by a cumulative growth of knowledge. The SCCS made knowledge accumulation possible in at least two ways. First, although Murdock and White initially coded only a few dozen variables, over the last four decades other researchers added hundreds of additional variables. The total count currently approaches 2000 variables.

Evolution Institute

Turchin's UTM sampling frame: Universal Transverse Mercator system

Longitude zones are six degrees wide. They are numbered from 01 at 180° west, increasing towards the east until 60 at 180° east.

Latitude zones are 8° high. They are lettered from C to X, omitting the letters "I" and "O", beginning at 80° south. The letters A, B, Y and Z are used in the polar regions by the Universal Polar Stereographic grid system.

A grid reference is read "right, up", as indicated by the arrows. A reference is always written with the longitude zone first. In this example, "17T".

Exceptions to the system are apparent. The west coast of Norway is given a wider zone 32V, taking some space from the zone 31V that covers open water. The zones around Svalbard are also widened, effectively deleting some longitude zones at this latitude. Finally, the entire latitude zone "X" is extended an extra 4°, topping off at 84° north.

Recent exchange

Doug, here's the web site for the Evolution Institute:

My main project with the EI right now is on failed states and state building from the evolutionary point of view. This fits within the broader framework on evoluton of ultrasociality and social complexity, more on it here:

The NIMBios workshop is mentioned there, but here is a direct link:

Anything else I am forgetting?


Wikipedia:Peter Turchin

Turchin, Peter. 2010. Warfare and the Evolution of Social Complexity: A Multilevel-Selection Approach Structure and Dynamics 4#3..

Turchin, Peter. 2009b. “A theory for formation of large empires.” Journal of Global History 4:191-217. "Turchin (2009b) connects many important dynamics to the interactions along meta-ethnic boundaries between sedentary and nomadic populations. His “desert pump” idea suggests that long droughts in regions that have marginal productivity led to incursions and warfare among sedentary and nomadic polities." (from preprint, Fletcher et al. 2011).

Turchin, Peter. 2009a. "Long Term Population Cycles in Human Societies." In, This Year in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 2009. Edited by R. S. Ostfeld and W. H. Schlesinger (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences).

Turchin, Peter, and Sergey A. Nefedov. 2009. Secular Cycles. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Turchin, Peter. 2008. Arise Cliodynamics. Nature 454: 34-35

Turchin, Peter. 2006. Population Dynamics and Internal Warfare: a Reconsideration. Social Evolution and History 5/2: 121–158 (contains an extra figure from the submitted version), with Andrey Korotayev. Discussed in

Turchin, Peter. 2005 War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires. Pi Press. (paperback 2007)

Turchin, Peter. 2005 Dynamical Feedbacks between Population Growth and Sociopolitical Instability in Agrarian States. Structure and Dynamics 1(1): 49-69.

Turchin, Peter. 2003 Complex Population Dynamics: a Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis. Princeton University Press. Additional stuff (known typos, NLTSM software) here.

Turchin, Peter. 2003 Evolution in population dynamics. Nature 424: 257-258. Abstract: In their study of predator–prey cycles, investigators have assumed that they do not need to worry about evolution. The discovery of population cycles driven by evolutionary factors will change that view.

Turchin, Peter. 2003 Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Several of his studies are cited by Doug White in his Paris ECCS and Complexity summer school lectures, which also use and cite images from his Cliodynamics site papers and SFI and ECCS powerpoints.

Secular Cycles

Secular Cycles by Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov, 2009. Princeton University Press.

"In Secular Cycles the Russian historian Sergey Nefedov and I have collaborated on presenting our best case study of theoretical history. Our book focuses on grand—centuries-long—oscillations in demographic, economic, social, and political structures of historical agrarian societies. We start the book with an overview of the demographic-structural theory explaining secular cycles, but our main goal is the presentation of a large amount of empirical material documenting the trajectories of actual societies. Our survey includes chapters on England, France, and Russia from medieval to early modern periods, and the Roman Republic and Empire. We are also planning another volume on China from the Han to Qing eras, the ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, medieval Near East, and India. Any and all comments will be extremely welcome." -- Cliodynamics page

Go to the Secular Cycles page




External links

home page


Response Surface Analysis - Box and Wilson

Need to evaluate some books on R

Dynamic Linear Models with R (Use R)
Nonlinear Regression with R (Use R)
Time Series Analysis: With Applications in R (Springer Texts in Statistics)

New articles

G. Alpargu and J. Buonaccorsi. 2009. A model-free test for independence between time series Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics 14(1): 115-132, DOI: 10.1198/jabes.2009.0007


Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends

Critique of multilevel selection


As some of you know, Steven Pinker recently wrote a critique of multilevel selection for the online Edge magazine:

We at the Social Evolution Forum

would like to use the Forum as a platform for a free-wheeling discussion of this critique. The purpose of this e-mail is to invite you to participate in this discussion. As you will see, three commentaries (by Herbert Gintis, Michael Hochberg, and Harvey Whitehouse and Ryan McKay) have already been posted, and I wrote a blog about it.

We are also interested in considering other Commentaries for publication at the SEF. The suggested length is 500-800 words. Please avoid overly technical language. To submit the commentary, please e-mail it to me as a Word or RTF file at

Because Steven Pinker makes a claim that group selection has added nothing to the study of history, we are particularly interested in what historians and archaeologists think about it (but commentaries from all fields are welcome).