By M. Wilkins
Editor’s note: Guest Author Mark Wilkins has discovered an exciting new way to look at history through the development, rise and decline of civilizations. He has noted recurring themes within the history of civilizations and developed a theory on how civilizations evolve. He calls it The Establishment-Maintenance-Expansion Cycle.
The Establishment-Maintenance-Expansion Cycle
This is a natural cycle which has implications not only in the history but also in psychology, physical science, biology and chemistry. The cycle has three stages which are often repeated. There is also a fourth stage (Decline) which appears at the end of every cycle.
Humanity, since the dawn of the caveman era has tried to create communities of people with the same needs, wants and interests. I am going to use an imaginary community of cave people to illustrate how the Establishment-Maintenance-Expansion cycle works.
In the beginning, cave people lived alone or in small family groups. Their main task was involved in struggling against nature and their environment to get food, water and to find appropriate shelter (a cave). Many of them lived in small caves because larger caves posed more danger (poisonous bugs, wild animals like bears living in them). Everyone within the family group had a job to do. Men often hunted to provide food. If there was only one man, then the group had one hunter. If there were a few men then they had a small band of hunters. It was easier for a small band of hunters to capture and kill animals for meat than it was for one hunter. A small band could make noises from different directions and scare an animal into running into a trap. A small group of hunters could spear and animal several times in a few minutes. Women and children would gather fruits, berries and plants for food. Cave people realized that having more people in their family group would make life easier because they could get more work done faster. It also provided more protection against wolves, bears and other families of people who might want their cave.
Over time these cave people began to band together in multi-family groups. This in our cycle is called Establishment. Since the main goal of their life was searching for and getting food through hunting animals and gathering fruits, berries and plants to eat, we call them hunter-gatherers. The larger the multi-family group, the more hunting and gathering they could do and the faster they could do it. Instead of having one hunting or gathering party, they could have several which would increase their chances of finding food. In times of abundant food, they began to store extra food for the times when food was not abundant. They began making storage containers. They began domesticating animals for milk (cows, goats) meat (chickens / birds, cattle) for clothing (cattle, sheep) or for protection (wolves). Some of the smarter or luckier cave people created or obtained something extra. Sometimes it was an animal they captured on their own which may have been allowed to remain theirs.
In time, other families joined the group. The group got larger. There were more mouths to feed. Some of the new families to join the group had some different ideas about how things should be done. Some of the new families wanted to have more say in what the group did and how they did it. Over time a few different families became powerful within the group and there was a struggle for control between the original families and the newer families in the group. Ultimately, one family was able to become the recognized leaders of the group. The leader of that family became the leader of the group.
That family began trying to consolidate power within the group and to increase the territory of the group. Sometimes this involved confrontations with other family groups. Sometimes this meant battles and even war. As the group won battles and conquered other groups they expanded their territory and built an Empire (many groups of people ruled by one particular group of people).
Once they expanded territory, they had to govern the people they had conquered. Some of those people were not happy. They began doing small things to disrupt the group. They talked about regaining their independence. There, however was not much they could do about it because they were outnumbered. As the group expanded their territory, they began to trade with neighboring and even distant groups. Through trading and conquering there was a culture clash, (exposure to groups of people that had different beliefs and ways of doing things then they did) they discovered new things from the other groups they traded with and conquered. Some of these things became a part of the groups way of doing things and / or culture. Some of the original people within the group became inspired. Some created new ways of using the things they learned from the other groups. Others created new things built upon or inspired by the new things the group had discovered. By doing this they promoted the things they discovered from other people’s into their group’s way of doing things. This period is known as invention and promotion.
Once the group had expanded enough, the expansion of territory stopped. There were no more wars. There was a time of peace. During peace, the group did well. Trade was good, the expanded territory created more land for farming, raising domesticated animals and building public works (like ways of bringing needed resources to the territory to help the group. Within the group the original members and others got and were able to keep things of value. The family of the original leader kept power but others within the group got things of value by work, trade, or having a much-needed skill. They had enough things of value (wealth) that they could pass it down to their family members when they died. This is known as inter-generational wealth building.
Eventually the Leader dies. The leadership role is passed down to one of their children (this is known as inheritance). When that child dies leadership is passed on to one of their children. This continues for generations. Then one of the great, great, great, great grandchildren of the original leader inherits the throne. They are a crappy leader. The generations of peace and prosperity are ruined by this idiot. People who live in the group and people who live near them realize this and the leader is changed either through external forces (war by a neighboring group) or internal forces (conquered people within the group struggle for their freedom). If the group is conquered by another outside group then they become part of another group and subject to its way of doing things. If they are taken over by the people they conquered or a group within the main group, then there has been a revolution. The leadership group changes (regime change). Either way, the cycle often starts all over again.
Most of the civilizations we will study during this course will follow this cycle. One of your main jobs as a student of this course will be to identify each of these civilizations follow these themes. You will need to include the names of people, events, places and timelines unique to each civilization in order to demonstrate your understanding of how this cycle works in each of the civilizations we will study. The cycle doesn’t always work in the same exact order of steps each time and sometimes there may be some steps that are missing in some civilizations but generally, this cycle works for most civilizations we will study.
What follows are recurring themes in the history of civilizations:
The Struggle against Nature / Environment
The Struggle for Control of the Community
The Struggle to gain or maintain territory
Invention and Promotion
Inter-generational wealth building
The Struggle for Freedom
Revolution-Regime Change / War-Peace
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