A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (book review) Manuel DeLanda

190619 from 170113: i was sure i reviewed this, as it is certainly my favorite history text. by memory, then, six years reading later, i offer this review if no direct quotes. this is sort of opposite the ‘linear’ model of historical change, as presented in the ‘great man’ theory, or the ‘grand narrative’ theory. this is an application of nonlinear dynamics where slightest alteration in initial conditions can lead to radically different outcomes. weather is iconic example, the famed butterfly flapping its wings in the amazon causally influences thunderstorm in Kansas...


‘great man’ is the idea such and such would not have happened without this particular individual, this being maybe king or queen or leader or warrior or religious figure or... degenerates into hero-worship or irremediably bad press on memory or gradually forgotten civic holidays... ‘grand narrative’ suggest an ‘author’ of meaningful ‘plot’, cast backwards from the present, as if the way things happened is the only way things could have happened... both theories strain credulity the more historical chronicles read... and the arbitrary effect of slight alterations...


here, linear history is affected by such alterations, not just to the ‘great man’ but all those thousands and millions who prosecute directives given from these powers above, as well these might be done. little things happen. planning must be flexible. big things surprise. wait. run. stop. start. there is no obvious or apparent pattern here, this book only guides you to surf the breaks, does not tell you, does not know, when is the next surprise... this is fun. i gave this book to dad, at that time working on fractals and nonlinear dynamics etc in physics, but he found the history distracting. said, as far as ‘nonlinear etc’, that’s not physics, that’s not even wrong... but then he qualified his doubts and said, well, he does not follow it all, though it looks interesting. so, maybe the theory is shaky: but i love this book...

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