History as a giant data set: how analysing the past could help save the future:

Many historians consider this mathematical approach to history to be problematic. They tend to believe that lessons can be drawn from the past, but only in a very limited way – the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland might shed light on current tensions there, for example. These days, few historians search for general laws that apply across centuries and societies, or that can be used to predict the future in any meaningful way. That was the goal of the scientific historians of the 19th century, many of whom were inspired by social Darwinism, and it is an approach now regarded as deeply flawed, as well as fatally connected to narratives of empire.

As an erstwhile historian moi meme I tend to agree. History is not cyclic but moves forward at great speed, and with human agency in the mix ... But interesting that people from fields afar now swoop down on history and try to discover the hidden laws that governs it. Engels might have loved it, but I think that we, in general, got past that point?

Inventing a God:

It would become an accepted fact that the indigenous people of Mexico believed Hernando Cortés to be a god, arriving in their land in the year 1519 to satisfy an ancient prophecy. It was understood that Moctezuma (also known as Montezuma II), at heart a coward, trembled in his sandals and quickly despaired of victory. He immediately asked to turn his kingdom over to the divine newcomers, and naturally, the Spaniards happily acquiesced. Eventually, this story was repeated so many times, in so many reputable sources, that the whole world came to believe it.

But, it turns out, this is not exactly what happened after all.

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