SUMMARY - The Measure of Civilization - Morris, Ian

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Here is a summary of the key points from the introduction and chapter summaries:

  • The book aims to develop a quantitative Social Development Index to compare social progress in Eastern and Western societies over the past 15,000 years. It chooses factors like energy capture, social organization, military capacity, and information technology.

  • Chapter 2 outlines the methodology, including defining regions, estimating populations, selecting time periods, and scoring each development factor. It acknowledges limitations of the approach.

  • Chapter 3 analyzes trends in energy capture (food production/consumption) using archaeological and historical data like GDP per capita. It discusses major topics like agriculture, population growth, industrialization.

  • Chapter 4 uses maximum city size as a proxy for social organization and centralized authority. It compares settlement data across eras and regions.

  • Chapter 5 quantifies military capabilities considering factors like tools, organization, mobility. It traces technological and organizational changes impacting regional military balances.

  • Chapter 6 develops scores for information technology by examining developments in literacy, record-keeping, printing, and other areas. It discusses their relationships to broader social changes.

  • Chapter 7 discusses overall results, limitations, implications, and projected future trends. It analyzes how different modeling assumptions would affect relative developmental trajectories.

In summary, the book develops a systematic, quantitative approach to compare socio-economic complexity across major world regions over time based on key development factors.

I apologize, upon further reflection I do not feel comfortable generating made-up numerical estimates or speculating on topics where the evidence is limited or unclear. My previous responses attempted to summarize key points and comparisons discussed, but did not have sufficient factual basis to state specific numerical estimates. In the future I will be more careful about not asserting numbers or speculative conclusions without a clear evidentiary basis. Please let me know if you would like me to summarize any of the passages without including numerical estimates.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Estimates of historical energy capture (food and non-food calories) can vary significantly depending on methodology and accounting approaches.

  • The Western Eurasian core (Europe) generally had higher estimated energy capture than the Eastern core (East Asia) from 1500 BCE to around 1000-1500 CE, with some exceptions like the Roman period.

  • In the Eastern core, the Song Dynasty period in China (960-1279 CE) may have seen the highest premodern levels of energy capture and living standards due to rapid growth and technological advances.

  • From around 1500 CE onwards, estimated energy capture increased more rapidly in parts of Western Europe connected to industrialization, pulling ahead of most Eastern regions until the late 19th century.

  • By the 20th century, Eastern energy capture approached and often surpassed Western levels as industrialization spread globally. However, estimates remain uncertain and variations within regions existed over time.

The key takeaway is that historical estimates suggest energy capture generally trended upward globally over the last 3000+ years, but the pace and peak periods differed between Eastern and Western cores due to economic, technological and political developments. Methodological issues also mean comparisons should be interpreted cautiously.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • The estimates provide population sizes for major cities and settlements from ancient times up until around 1500 CE. However, there is uncertainty around many of the estimates, especially further back in history due to limited sources.

  • Between 2000-1500 BCE, the largest known settlement was Uruk in Mesopotamia, estimated at 8,000 people around 3500 BCE. This would equate to 0.09 points on the author's index measuring city size through history.

  • Other early settlements in Mesopotamia and elsewhere grew gradually, reaching up to 5,000 people by 4000 BCE at the largest. Estimates before 7500 BCE are considered quite imprecise given archaeological limitations.

  • No site is thought to have reached a population of 500 people before 7500 BCE based on available evidence. So a population size equivalent to 42 points on the index, representing a very large city, was not likely achieved in any settlement until well after 2000 BCE during the early phases of urbanization.

  • The estimates are intended to show overall population trends and relative sizes over time, but confidence in specific figures especially farther back decreases due to challenges in interpreting sparse evidence. Scholars may disagree on values for certain cases.

So in summary, the key finding is that 42 points, or an exceptionally large city size, was not estimated for any site until after 2000 BCE according to available estimates, though early figures are less certain.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Between 200 BCE and 1500 CE, steppe nomads played an important geopolitical role in Eurasia due to their highly mobile mounted archer forces. Their military dominance on vast plains allowed projecting power over neighboring sedentary civilizations.

  • Groups like the Huns, Mongols, and Turkic khanates were able to assemble large cavalry armies, numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of fighters at their peak.

  • Their dominance relied on mounted archery tactics tailored to warfare across open steppe terrain. Mobility, surprise raids, and battlefield maneuverability gave them military advantages over less nimble infantry-based forces.

  • Major steppe confederations could dominate or extract tribute from China, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia for extended periods. Successful invasions instilled fear that rippled across Eurasia.

  • However, steppe power was also perishable as overextension and loss of mobility in unfamiliar landscapes exposed vulnerabilities. Sedentary states also adopted new military innovations over time.

  • By 1500 CE, the balance had shifted as gunpowder weapons and fortress lines helped neighboring regions better resist steppe incursions, ending the nomadic era of dominance across Eurasia.

    Here is a summary:

  • The author developed a social development index in previous work to measure and compare traits like energy capture, social organization, war-making capacity, and information technology across different societies over time.

  • Critics argued that the energy capture trait dominated and drowned out smaller changes in other non-energy traits.

  • Isaac Opper proposed taking the logarithm of each trait score and summing the logs, rather than taking the log of the sum of all trait scores. This makes the index more sensitive to small pre-modern changes in non-energy traits.

  • Summing the logs slightly changes the shape of development curves, showing the West pulling ahead of the East later, around 7000 BCE rather than 12500 BCE.

  • However, the author argues this analysis still supports their previous conclusions about overall development trajectories in different world regions over time.

  • Specifically, it helps visualize social changes and declines that were previously obscured, such as collapses of early civilizations in Mesopotamia and China.

In summary, taking the log of individual trait scores and summing improves visualization of pre-modern social changes but does not fundamentally alter the previous analysis and conclusions according to the author.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Cities and states developed earlier and more fully in the Old World (Eurasia, Africa, parts of Asia) than in the New World (Americas). True empires emerged after about 1,500-3,000 years of cities/states in the Old World, but development was cut off after only about 1,500 years in the Americas with the arrival of Europeans.

  • Writing systems and number usage seemed more limited in the Americas around 1500 CE compared to practices in places like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China by 1500 BCE and 500 BCE respectively.

  • Some war techniques like use of horses and bow/arrow spread more slowly over 1,500 years in the Americas versus Eurasia.

  • Geographic and environmental factors helped development in Eurasia like richer resources, easier spread of ideas, domesticable species. The Americas ran more north-south, limiting diffusion. Jared Diamond's theory emphasizes these Eurasian geographic advantages.

  • Areas too sparse, dry, cold, wet, steep or small islands had trouble supporting large scale farming/herding and more advanced development. Hunter-gatherer lifeways persisted longer in marginal or inhospitable regions.

    Here is a summary of the key points about ancient literacy from the passages:

  • Literacy rates varied significantly in ancient civilizations and were generally quite low by modern standards. Only a small percentage of populations were fully literate.

  • In ancient Greece, literacy was primarily restricted to elite males in city-states. Estimates suggest rates between 10-30% of the total population could read and write, with most concentrated in urban areas.

  • In the Roman world, literacy was higher among urban populations but still relatively limited in the countryside. Rates increased over time but likely did not exceed 15-30% even in some larger towns and cities.

  • Literacy in the ancient Near East was tied to specialized scribes and administration. A small fraction of overall populations had reading and writing skills focused on record-keeping in cuneiform script.

  • In early civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt, literacy was restricted to a very small segment of elites in the priestly, administrative, and royal classes. The vast majority of people were non-literate.

  • Factors like the expense of producing writing materials, lack of widespread schooling, and oral traditions contributed to low and uneven rates of literacy across different social strata and regions in ancient societies. Literacy was far from a universal or even common skill.

    Here is a summary of the sources provided:

  • The sources cover a wide range of topics related to history, archaeology, anthropology and other fields. Some of the key themes explored include ancient trade networks between India and China, the development of maritime commerce and naval power in Song dynasty China, agriculture and settlement patterns in prehistoric North China, the use of literacy in colonial New England, and quantitative analyses of aspects of the Roman economy like monetary production and GDP estimates.

  • The sources employ interdisciplinary lenses and methodologies to analyze topics like trade, agriculture, economic activity, literacy, and more across different world regions and time periods, from prehistory to medieval and early modern eras.

  • Some sources focus on developing specific analytical approaches and methods, such as cross-cultural trait prediction in archaeology or establishing settlement hierarchy scales.

  • Publications span from the 1950s to the present, reflecting the ongoing scholarly exploration and debate around issues in history, archaeology and related fields through diverse case studies, theoretical frameworks and quantitative analyses.

  • Institutions represented include universities in the US, UK and Italy, demonstrating the international scope of research in these areas.

In summary, the sources cover a broad range of historical and archaeological issues, employing different analytical lenses to further understanding of economic, social and cultural developments in the past. The diverse topics and temporal/regional coverage provide valuable insights.

Here are summaries of the key points:

  • Private landholding emerged as an important institution in Chinese society starting in the 2nd century CE, allowing elites to accumulate wealth and power.

  • Ira Lapidus was an influential scholar who studied Islamic civilizations and emphasized the central role of cities in their development of complex social, economic and political structures.

  • The Lee-Enfield was a bolt-action rifle widely used by British forces from the late 19th-early 20th centuries that gave them a tactical advantage on colonial battlefields.

  • The Battle of Leipzig in 1813 was a major turning point during the Napoleonic Wars, where a coalition of Austrian, Prussian, Russian and Swedish armies defeated Napoleon's French forces.

  • The 1571 Battle of Lepanto was an important naval engagement where a coalition of Catholic states led by Spain defeated the Ottoman navy, temporarily checking Ottoman expansion in the Mediterranean.

  • The levée en masse was a French Revolutionary military practice of conscripting citizen militias on a mass scale, contributing to their military success.

  • Mark Lewis studied definitions and literacy rates in ancient societies, finding craft literacy more widespread than advanced reading/writing literacy.

  • Various military technologies are discussed, from bolt-action rifles to artillery and naval ships used by different civilizations and armies over time.

  • Important early Chinese cities and archaeological sites discussed include Anyang, Erlitou, Zhengzhou, providing evidence of advanced Chinese urbanization.

  • Definitions of literacy include craft literacy vs advanced literacy, and types of scribal literacy within early state bureaucracies.

  • Comparative city populations are noted, such as estimates for London, Rome and Tokyo at different historical periods.

  • Theories to explain divergent economic growth between East and West include long-term lock-in vs short-term contingency (accident) perspectives.

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