Natural Experiments of History [NOOK Book]

Overview

In eight case studies by leading scholars in history, archaeology, business, economics, geography, and political science, the authors showcase the “natural experiment” or “comparative method”—well-known in any science concerned with the past—on the discipline of human history. That means, according to the editors, “comparing, preferably quantitatively and aided by statistical analyses, different systems that are similar in many respects, but that differ with respect to the factors whose influence one wishes to ...
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Natural Experiments of History

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Overview

In eight case studies by leading scholars in history, archaeology, business, economics, geography, and political science, the authors showcase the “natural experiment” or “comparative method”—well-known in any science concerned with the past—on the discipline of human history. That means, according to the editors, “comparing, preferably quantitatively and aided by statistical analyses, different systems that are similar in many respects, but that differ with respect to the factors whose influence one wishes to study.” The case studies in the book support two overall conclusions about the study of human history: First, historical comparisons have the potential for yielding insights that cannot be extracted from a single case study alone. Second, insofar as is possible, when one proposes a conclusion, one may be able to strengthen one’s conclusion by gathering quantitative evidence (or at least ranking one’s outcomes from big to small), and then by testing the conclusion’s validity statistically.
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Editorial Reviews

Choice

This ambitious, at times challenging, book aspires to contribute new ways of historical thinking and historical research by drawing attention, on the one hand, to the similarities between science (including social sciences) and history, and on the other, by using social sciences methods, especially statistical analysis, to study history. The editors argue that though the difference between studies of nature and human history is obvious, there are clear overlaps. They can be viewed through studying comparative history or by conducting "natural experiments of history" and analyzing the "perturbations" and their causes (exogenous or endogenous) in the involved cases. The book offers a broad array of case studies to illustrate and explain the argument, ranging from nonliterate to contemporary societies and from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to Brazil, India, and tropical Africa. The comparative methods showcased are quite versatile, from two-way to multiple-way comparisons. All the case studies are interesting and help demonstrate how, via comparative study, one society's, region's, or country's situation is better displayed and explained by juxtaposing it with other, similar ones. A useful read in macro, global history.
— Q. E. Wang

Cliodynamics

Natural Experiments of History is a thought-provoking collection of essays that covers an impressive array of topics and would make an excellent text for a course on comparative studies of human history."
— Thomas E. Currie

Nature

Natural Experiments of History is a short book packed with huge ideas. Its collected essays advocate how controlled experiments can be applied to the messy realities of human history, politics, culture, economics and the environment. It demonstrates productive interdisciplinary collaborations but also reveals gulfs between different cultures of academia...All of the essays in Natural Experiments of History will trigger debate.
— Jon Christensen

John Coatsworth
A superb collection of eminently teachable essays bound together by a common methodological framework that connects it directly to cutting-edge theoretical and empirical research across the disciplines of anthropology, archeology, history, political science, and sociology.
Jeffry Frieden
Natural Experiments of History reaches across a wide variety of disciplines, in ways that should be accessible to just about every educated reader. It is tied together not by topic or region but by the idea that we can make useful and insightful comparisons in ways that are not casual or sloppy, but actually contribute to our understanding of human life.
Nature - Jon Christensen
Natural Experiments of History is a short book packed with huge ideas. Its collected essays advocate how controlled experiments can be applied to the messy realities of human history, politics, culture, economics and the environment. It demonstrates productive interdisciplinary collaborations but also reveals gulfs between different cultures of academia...All of the essays in Natural Experiments of History will trigger debate.
Choice - Q. E. Wang
This ambitious, at times challenging, book aspires to contribute new ways of historical thinking and historical research by drawing attention, on the one hand, to the similarities between science (including social sciences) and history, and on the other, by using social sciences methods, especially statistical analysis, to study history. The editors argue that though the difference between studies of nature and human history is obvious, there are clear overlaps. They can be viewed through studying comparative history or by conducting "natural experiments of history" and analyzing the "perturbations" and their causes (exogenous or endogenous) in the involved cases. The book offers a broad array of case studies to illustrate and explain the argument, ranging from nonliterate to contemporary societies and from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to Brazil, India, and tropical Africa. The comparative methods showcased are quite versatile, from two-way to multiple-way comparisons. All the case studies are interesting and help demonstrate how, via comparative study, one society's, region's, or country's situation is better displayed and explained by juxtaposing it with other, similar ones. A useful read in macro, global history.
Cliodynamics - Thomas E. Currie
Natural Experiments of History is a thought-provoking collection of essays that covers an impressive array of topics and would make an excellent text for a course on comparative studies of human history."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674076723
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 338,333
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Jared Diamond is Professor of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles. His books include Guns, Germs, and Steel.

James A. Robinson is Professor of Government, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

  • Prologue: Natural Experiments of History
    Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson

  1. Controlled Comparison and Polynesian Cultural Evolution
    Patrick V. Kirch
  2. Exploding Wests: Boom and Bust in Nineteenth-Century Settler Societies
    James Belich
  3. Politics, Banking, and Economic Development: Evidence from New World Economies
    Stephen Haber
  4. Intra-Island and Inter-Island Comparisons
    Jared Diamond
  5. Shackled to the Past: The Causes and Consequences of Africa's Slave Trades
    Nathan Nunn
  6. Colonial Land Tenure, Electoral Competition, and Public Goods in India
    Abhijit Banerjee and Lakshmi Iyer
  7. From Ancien Régime to Capitalism: The Spread of the French Revolution as a Natural Experiment
    Daron Acemoglu, Davide Cantoni, Simon Johnson, and James A. Robinson

  • Afterword: Using Comparative Methods in Studies of Human History
    Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson
  • Contributors

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