Ancient History and the Social Sciences
An interesting and very stimulating book has just been published by Douglass North, J.J. Wallis and Barry Weingast, Violence and social orders. A conceptual framework for interpreting recorded human history. Cambridge University Press, 2009. I am sure many ancient historians would raise objections on the details of what the authors define as a “natural state,” which limits the ability of persons to form organizations and characterizes all premodern states, but this is one of those books that I think ALL ancient historians will have to engage in, respond to and so on. This is a major (though not a very large) book that treats many important issues for all historians, and in particular the nature of the state. Getting the details right, and also understanding the big picture, and why things matter, is the name of the game in ancient history, and this book should be welcomed with open arms.