Chronoi Talks: “Times of Fast and Slow Change”

December 2, 2021

3 - 4 pm (CET)

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmermann (University of Cologne; EC-Chronoi)

A concept like the “Neolithic Revolution” implicitly suggests a short episode of fast change, whereas a concept like a “Longue Durée” implies a long time of slow change. In this talk, it is proposed to use population growth or decline as a proxy for the speed of change.

Comparisons allow to recognize peculiarities of a specific society and also to identify shared properties with preceding and succeeding similar communities. Such interpretations operate at two scale levels of time. Similarities within developmental sequences circumscribe common grounds of longer timespans eventually with slow change. Dissimilarities of the community of interest with earlier or later societies allow to identify idiosyncrasies of relatively short duration, sometimes with fast and marked change.

For our understanding of the demographic development of mankind, different models exist (Whitmore et al. 1990). Each is characterized by a specific scale of time. An overview of the prehistory of Switzerland, for example, uses a linear scale (Stöckli 2016). Edward S. Deevey describes the global demographic development by means of a logarithmic time scale (Deevey 1960). Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones have developed their approach to the Atlas of World Population History by separating the time in different segments and used again a linear time scale but only within these segments (McEvedy & Jones 1978). Each of these time models develops an almost manipulative power concerning the resulting interpretation. This talk tries to explicate some of the respective consequences.

The recording of this talk will be uploaded soon, please check back for updates.