chapter  9
31 Pages

Big History and historiography

Deep tides and swirling foam: the influence of macro-historical trends on micro-historical events
WithDavid Baker

Big history holds the potential to revolutionise how every historian thinks about micro-historical events and to reawaken one of the oldest debates on the relevance of meta-theory in historical scholarship, a debate which has long sat dormant, stagnant, and unresolved. Big history is well known for exploring broad trends that stretch across 13.8 billion years, rising complexity and collective learning being foremost amongst them. The modern application of long demographic cycles began with Thomas Robert Malthus, a well-to-do country vicar from the downs of Surrey in southern England. David Ricardo, a contemporary of Malthus, further developed the concept of demographically driven long cycles and one of his greatest contributions for our purposes was that he showed how the upper echelons of society profited from circumstances of overpopulation and stagnating production. In the twentieth century, the study of long cycles drifted to the Continent in the works of Nikolai Kondratiev, François Simiand, Jenny Griziotti-Kretschmann, and Wilhelm Abel.