The evolutionary approach to history: sociocultural phylogenetics

Marion Blute, Fiona Jordan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

4 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


There are three forms of modern Darwinian evolutionism in the social sciences and humanities: the gene-based biological, the social learning-based sociocultural, and gene-culture coevolution dealing with their interaction. This chapter focuses on cultural or sociocultural evolution. It begins with a discussion of the Darwinian-inspired evolutionary approach to history. It then outlines modern evolutionary phylogenetic methods borrowed from biology but now used extensively in the social sciences and humanities. The chapter provides examples of how language trees may be inferred; phylogenetic comparative methods that use language trees to answer questions about aspects of geographical, social, political, cultural, or economic organization; and phylogenetic investigations of material culture and traditions. It is concluded that culture does indeed “descend with modification.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Handbook of Evolution, Biology, and Society
EditorsRosemary L Hopcroft
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780190299323
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • evolution and history
  • cultural evolution
  • sociocultural evolution
  • cultural phylogenetics
  • phylolinguistics

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