REFERENCE

Figuring Out the Past: The 3,495 Vital Statistics That Explain World History

Economist. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781541762688. pap. $18.99. REF
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Turchin (evolutionary anthropology, Univ. of Connecticut) and historian and social scientist Hoyer distill information from the Seshat Global History Databank (Turchin is chair of the board of directors; Hoyer is a senior project manager), presenting history through data rather than narratives. The authors chronologically arrange key statistics for cultures such as the Kushan Empire or ancient Egypt from 3000 BCE to the 1800s, followed by rankings (tallest buildings, largest societies) and maps (the spread of agriculture, coinage, bronze, etc.). Readers are invited to look for trends and patterns, ideally, the authors state, finding commonalities across time and location. Society profiles cover economics, the military, religion, and more.
VERDICT Though dry reading for many, this work may be a fit for those familiar with the Economist’s Pocket World in Figures and for those who want to draw their own conclusions about the spread of ideas relating to gender equality and economic and religious practices.

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