Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems
Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade
Chapter 4: Ecohistorical Regimes and La Longue Durée: An Approach to Mapping Long-Term Societal Change
James McGlade INTRODUCTION The evolutionary structuring of societal systems is a core concern of the historical sciences and one that has persisted as a constant on the research horizon since the emergence of social science as a distinctive discipline in the 19th century. The reasons for this ubiquity are not diﬃcult to fathom, since they are consistent with the late 19th and 20th century ﬁxation with understanding human evolution and in a sense are testimony to the overwhelming inﬂuence that Darwinian ideas have had on intellectual thought generally. Somewhat inevitably, the nascent discipline of archaeology, growing up like a number of other social sciences in the second half of the 19th century, eagerly embraced the implications of the new evolutionary Zeitgeist; in particular, archaeology was transﬁxed by Lyle’s new geostratigraphy with its rejection of biblical time and its vision of a new temporal chronology. This latter, with its emphasis on linear, progressive evolution, was to form the underpinning of all subsequent theorizing on the nature of social change within the discipline. One celebrated attempt to go beyond the ﬁxity of such chronological frameworks is due to the work of the Annales school founded by Febvre and Bloch in 1929. Their critique of history as a sequence of discrete events in the service of chronology and its attendant cult of detail was to provide the impetus for a manifesto of radical change. An important part of their central thesis was that, by contrast to normative schemes of history...
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