Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Upgrading Braudel's model palette

Previously we observed that the conceptual framework for Braudel's Mediterranean needs to be not only extracted, but also updated to reflect past thinking, Braudel's own reconsiderations and more recent thinking on the issues involved by others.

As far as the past thinking is concerned, the odd thing about the Mediterranean is that it's use of historical geography is much less sophisticated than the use is in Lucien Febvre's Introduction géographique (Paris, 1922). This is even more surprising when one considers that Febvre and Braudel did not meet until the 1930s.

Braudel of course had a much larger oeuvre than just the Mediterranean, as often as he returned to the subject matter in revisions and re-scriptions. It would be a caricature of Braudel to not revise his stance from the Mediterranean, where helpful, from the latter works on Capitalism, the identity of France, the History of Civilizations, and various other works. 

Braudel had no direct followers in his approach to historical authorship, but The Corrupting Sea by Horden & Purcell, the richly illustrated The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia, and The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean by John Julius Norwich all define and differentiate themselves with respect to Braudel and deserve to influence palette construction.

The "middle duration" (la durée médiane, for want of a better word) was always the step-child of Braudel's model, more illustrated than explicated with the business cycles. But it is in this area of research that population biologist Peter Turchin and his work on clio-dynamics (Secular Cycles; War, Peace and War; Historical Dynamics) has made most relevant contributions, extending the dynamic feedback descriptions from populations to socio-political groups such as artistocracies. I strongly suspect that Braudel would have embraced Turchin's work and found good use for it in yet another rewrite of the Mediterranean

The final update that needs to happen is the elimination of any triptych restriction of the temporal stratification. There is no justifiable reason to have just three layers in the historical cake; rather, the number of layers needs to be determined by the temporal aspects of the subject matter at hand and the duration of the various influences. It makes sense to cluster and sort the temporal durations, but there is no advantage to hard-code the cluster size to three. The work on knowledge representation for processes in cell and plant biology, where multiple cycles interlock at different rates and durations to form larger processes, is an example of such interactions.

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