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Recent macro-historical work has highlighted independent parallel movements of socio-cultural evolution in different parts of the globe (Diamond 1998).More specifically, historians of the more recent past are showing great interest in comparative assessments of Europe and 2000).
Expert knowledge is required for all elements of the comparison, not just for the cases the researcher is familiar with.
With regard to comparisons between the ancient Mediterranean and ancient In practice, historical comparisons inevitably rely on a mixture of different approaches.
BCE) and by the creation of the Persian empire (6th c. BCE, the Mediterranean had come to consist of five principal warring states () and an otherwise largely tribal periphery.
BCE), and was subsequently accelerated by the conquests of Alexander the Great (334-330 BCE), followed by the creation of Hellenistic successor states to the Persian empire (3rd to 1st c. In a fairly short amount of time, one of these states, Rome, achieved de facto unification, first by establishing hegemony (202 to 189 BCE) and then by gradual direct conquest (148 to 30 BCE), with concurrent as well as subsequent expansion into the tribal periphery (225 BCE to 180 CE).
1980 identifies two basic modes of enquiry: analytical comparisons between equivalent units involving the identification of independent variables that serve to explain common or contrasting patterns or occurrences; and illustrative comparisons, between equivalent units and a theory or concept, which evaluate evidence in relation to predictive theory rather than particular units in relation to one another.
The latter may aim for the confirmation of general sociological principles or more narrowly for the identification of rules for a group of cases (mid-level theory). The second method, contrast of contexts, applies comparisons to bring out the unique features of particular cases to show how these features affect the unfolding of putatively general social processes (e.g., Bendix 1977, 1978).
Thus, comparative history uses case-based comparisons to investigate historical variation, to offer causal explanations of particular outcomes by identifying critical differences between similar situations and/or by identifying robust processes that occur in different settings.
In the specific context of this project, Goldstones warning against approaching comparative history as a mere quarry of data (1991: 54) is well taken.
Comparative history is not about laws but about robust processes, defined as combinations of characteristic initial conditions that produce a particular outcome.
While these processes cannot generate precise predictions, the cross-cultural consistency of human behavior (currently a major issue in the debate between culturally and biologically oriented models of human nature) means that they may usefully imply probabilities of outcome.