Civilization and Disease

Humans are an environmental niche, and organisms arise through mutation to populate it. The survival of a colonizing organism depends upon its ability to adapt to the human body, and upon the body’s ability to adapt to it…

Feudalism

Feudalism was the economic and political system of Europe during the Middle Ages. One might be tempted to dismiss it as a primitive system, discarded when something better came along, but to do so would be to misunderstand human institutions…

The End of Feudalism

Custom played such a large role in governing feudal institutions that they were resistant to change. Feudalism could only be shaken by substantial changes to the external environment, and those changes finally came…

The Emergence of European States

From the fall of the Roman Empire until at least 1100 AD, there was nothing in Europe that could be called a state. States emerged in England and France over the period 1100-1300, and later in other parts of Europe. They showed early signs of constitutional government, but some countries veered towards authoritarianism under the financial stress of the fifteenth-century military revolution…

Why was Science Successful in Europe?

In the time between the Scientific Revolution and World War II, almost every major advance in modern science was made by scientists who were culturally European…

Science and Society in China and the Islamic World

Science must be integrated into the fabric of society — institutionalized — if it is to succeed over the longer term. Science was successfully institutionalized in Europe during the twelfth century. China and the Islamic world were at different times the world leader in science, but neither society institutionalized it, and science eventually faltered in both societies…

Why Were the Americas So Underdeveloped when Europeans Reached Them?

Mesopotamia at 1500 BC looks much like Mesoamerica at 1000 AD. The Eurasians had three thousand years to build upon their Mesopotamian foundations before the coming together of the New and Old Worlds. The Americans, by contrast, had only five hundred years…

The Foundations of the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution occurred when new methods — notably mathematical reasoning and experimentation — were adopted, but at the time of the Revolution, both mathematics and experimentation had been known to Europeans for centuries…

Economic Ideology and the Glorious Revolution

The Glorious Revolution changed the way that the English thought about their economy. The proponents of an economic ideology that justified the power of the landowners became less influential. The proponents of an ideology that emphasized the value of labour, and the role of manufacturing and trade in realizing this value, became more influential…

The Enlightenment in Britain and France

The Enlightenment marked a change in the way that humans understood themselves. Before the Enlightenment, they were bit players under God’s direction; after the Enlightenment, they stood at center stage…