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What Happened to Quantitative History? A Scholar Runs the Numbers

Scholars are increasingly taking a quantitative approach to history. You see that in the writing of the Stanford archaeologist-historian Ian Morris, whom I profiled in this week’s Chronicle Review, and in the work of even more radical quantifiers like Peter Turchin, a biologist at the University of Connecticut whose burgeoning discipline of “cliodynamics” is featured in a sidebar to the Morris article.

Yet scholars have experienced earlier infatuations with number-heavy history, notably the 70s-…