For thousands of years, a hidden rule limited the size of empires, unbeknownst to their rulers.
Internet in no way is eliminating cultural nationalism. While it makes us english more widespread, it also helps small cultures stay alive.
While XIXth century public education wiped out local languages, now the Net connect the communities.
In Canada, national newspapers were supposed to exterminate french. On July 1st 1867, the Globe (now Globe & Mail, the"national paper of record") the front page proudly boasted "Confederation enacted.French Canadianism extinguished!"
Didn't happened. So on to the 1930's. A national radio (then in the '50's tv) network was established, soon splitting in two entities who never collaborate so far as not even having a common newsroom and staff and essentially hate and despise each other (just follow the last two years fight about the title of a book describing the solidarity between francophones and blacks, a book banned on the english side...A prominent newsreader was fired just for saying the title).
The most nationalistic french-canadians are the bilinguals who can read and listen to the anglo media as they know what the other side think...
Take up identity and other cultural factors into account in the spread of a group. Compare to growth of bacteria or other forms on agar
The agar is the geographic limitation the nature of the organism and its characteristics determine the spread and location of spread
Cultural prohibitions and laws do likewise
Determinants like limits on cousin marriage may require a wider area and larger population to allow finding mates. Property rights and laws determine ability to build wealth.
A man who defines himself as the son of John in a kinship based society versus “I am an engineer or scientist “ may define or delimit a society. Same with the allowable jobs or marital partners of a Dalit or a woman in a given society Religion plays another role in cohesive behavior and allows crusades and wars to be sustained Many factors are worthy of attention in addition to geography physical ability and transport. The printing press. Literacy. Radio tv industry computer internet are also factors. Men define themselves by the technology. The body as a machine with efficiency experts Next the body as interconnected neuronal mass mimicking the computer circuits the mind and body as separate verses connected. Many issues to consider uncharted
I love your ideas (even though I may not fully agree with everything) but I think you have two minor factual mistakes that would be worth correcting:
1. You say: “ The empire couldn’t expand further and lost to the Greeks (in the famous Battle of Thermopylae, where the Greeks were led by the Spartans)“, I do not think it is correct, the Persians won in Thermopylae, they lost later on in Marathon (to the Athenians) and in Plataea (where Sparta led a Greek coalition of city states), among others; your point about overextending remains the same.
2. You say: “That’s why the Chinese started the Grand Canal System in the 5th century BC, before Rome was even born.”, I do not think that is correct, while you could always argue that the traditional foundation year of Rome may not be exact (753 BC), by the 5th century Rome was already a Republic (even though it would not become an empire until much latter, arguably until August time ).
Another factor that influenced the speed and extent of empire growth is disease. China douth of the Yellow River remained undeveloped and largely unoccupied for centuries because if endemic diseases. This idea is exlored well in Plagues and People by William McNeill.
I wonder if similar things happen at corporations with project management. If a delay, snag, or other problem takes more than a couple days to permiate to the correct people with the authority to handle the issue, the project may fail. Time scales are obviously condensed with modern technology, but I bet the underlaying issues are the same. If you can't react quickly enough to information you are not going to succeed.
Is all this to say that Mars cant be a colony of the empire of earth?
Thank you Thomas for making these topics so much fun to read. I gave a subscription to Uncharted Territories to my brother and our conversations are broader and deeper because of it.
I am reminded of “The Chalice and the Blade” by Eisler who explores the “dominator model” of expansion and implosion from the beginning of civilization. Her center for partnership studies encourages sustainable growth through partnership focusing on common interests.
Your Uncharted Territories subscription and the incipient feedback conversations such as this an example of a
living partnership with your readers. Perhaps
the virtual water cooler concept could be used here to expand and provide traction for our evolving “community of thinkers and doers”.
Exploration and collaboration on areas of common interest is so much more fun and fruitful than domination and tribalism.
Great article as usual. Another reason the Europeans colonized Africa in the 19th century and not before, is that they developed medicine back then to help them fight the many diseases of the continent. It explains also why the Muslims didn’t go all the way to South Africa but where stopped around the middle of the continent.
Wish you a joyful and stimulating 2023. This year, I want to make more time for long form reading like yours. Often it conflicts with other items in inbox plus varied internet distractions. I would like to use an aggregator where I can consolidate some links (blogs, articles, editorial pieces) and read them offline over dedicated chunks of time. Any recommendations ?
Have you read Joseph Heinrich's book. The WEIRDest people in the World?
The effect of cultural forces, identity, literacy, religion, technology etc adds to the the geographic and transportation technologies in shaping societies. The internet effect on culture and self perception in relation to others will be interesting to hear in your next report.
The Mongol exception needs a better explanation... It could take years to traverse from one end to the other.