Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Connecticut
75 N. Eagleville Road, U-43, Storrs, CT 06269-3043, USA
Tel: (860) 486-3603; Fax: (860) 486-6364
I am professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and adjunct in the departments of Anthropology and Mathematics at the University of Connecticut. I am also Vice-President and a Founding Member of the Board of Directors of the Evolution Institute.
Editor-in-Chief of Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History
Editor, the Social Evolution Forum
I was trained as a theoretical biologist, but my current research interests lie within the fields of Cultural Evolution and Historical Social Dynamics (Cliodynamics). Most generally, I work at the interface between biological, mathematical, and social sciences. Currently my research focuses on two broad questions.
Although we have recently made great strides in understanding how human sociality evolved in the context of small groups integrated by face-to-face interactions, we still lack understanding of how humans became an ultrasocial species. We are unique in our ability to cooperate in huge groups (millions and more members) of genetically unrelated individuals. I believe this puzzle can be solved by applying the theory of multilevel selection. Briefly, human societies grew in size by making repeated transitions from lower-level groups to higher-level meta-groups (that is, groups of groups). Critical factors enabling such transitions were the selective force imposed by warfare and processes maintaining cultural variation between groups (and meta-groups).
The second project focuses on the 'inverse problem': what general mechanisms explain the collapse of historical empires. It turns out that such imperial (and, sometimes, civilizational) collapses generally occured during the waves of political instability that periodically affected agrarian societies. More generaly, I have been investigating the mechanisms of long-term oscillations in demographic, economic, social, and political structures of historical societies. It turns out that population dynamics are linked with cycles of internal warfare, as well as disease waves (including such pandemics as the Black Death). I am currently attempting to understand how these dynamic variables interact with each other, and how the system is affected by such exogenous factors as climate fluctuations.
More details are on my Cliodynamics web page
Turchin P, Nefedov SA. 2009. Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press.
Turchin P. 2006. War and Peace and War: The Life Cycles of Imperial Nations. Pi Press. See it at Amazon.com
Turchin, P. 2003. Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton University Press. See it at Princeton University Press
Turchin, P. 2003. Complex Population Dynamics: a Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis. Princeton University Press. Additional stuff (known typos, NLTSM software) here.
Turchin, P. 1998. Quantitative Analysis of Movement: measuring and modeling population redistribution in plants and animals. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.
Turchin, P. 2011. Warfare and the Evolution of Social Complexity: a Multilevel Selection Approach. Structure and Dynamics Vol. 4, Iss. 3, Article 2:1-37.
Turchin P. 2010. 2020: Political Instability May Play a Role. Nature 463: 608.
Turchin, P. 2009. A Theory for Formation of Large Empires. Journal of Global History 4:191-207.
Turchin P, Scheidel W. 2009. Coin Hoards Speak of Population Declines in Ancient Rome. PNAS, in press.
Turchin P. 2008. Arise 'cliodynamics'. Nature 454:34-35.
Burtsev M, Turchin P. 2006. Evolution of cooperative strategies from first principles. Nature 440: 1041-4.
Turchin P. 2003. Evolution in population dynamics. Nature 424: 257-258.
Turchin, P. 2001. Does population ecology have general laws? Oikos 94:17-26.
Turchin, P., Oksanen, L., Ekerholm, P., Oksanen, T., Henttonen, H. 2000. Are lemmings prey or predators? Nature 405: 562-565.
Turchin, P., Ellner, S.P. 2000. Living on the edge of chaos: population dynamics of Fennoscandian voles. Ecology 81: 3099-3116.
Turchin, P., Taylor A.D., Reeve J.D. 1999. Dynamical role of predators in population cycles of a forest insect: an experimental test. Science 285: 1068-1071.
Turchin, P., Hanski, I. 1997. An empirically-based model for the latitudinal gradient in vole population dynamics. American Naturalist 149:842-874.
Hanski, I., Turchin P., Korpimaki, E., and Henttonen, H. 1993. Population oscillations of boreal rodents: regulation by mustelid predators leads to chaos. Nature 364:232-235.
Turchin, P. 1990. Rarity of density dependence or population regulation with lags? Nature 344:660-663.