Dynamics of Civilisation

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Impression of a jade seal designed by Professor Wang Mingming for CREDOC, containing the Chinese characters Xue (interpretation) and Wenming (civilisation).

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Centre for Research into the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC)
104 Gordon House
29 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PP



Watch the video for Civilisations and their Mobilisation Today: Western Civilisation:


What Makes Civilization?

Professor David Wengrow

Published by OUP, and the subject of an author presentation at the Hay Literary Festival (2011), this book is an outcome of long-term research on the relationships among Middle Eastern societies from prehistory to the Bronze Age, leading to a revised narrative of the ‘birth of civilization’ in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Global Axess: Civilisation interview (28 mins)


Modeling Strategic Decisions in the Formation of the Early Neo-Assyrian Empire

Dr Mark Altaweel

Regional pic

Demography of Neolithic Europe

Professor Stephen Shennan

A study of regional population fluctuations c.8000-4000 BP and their causes and consequences


Past Climates & Ecologies

Professor Mark Maslin

A combined study of palaeoclimates, palaeoenvironments and palaeobiology that provides lessons in the ability of ecosystems (including civilizations) to respond to environmental change over time.


The origins and nature of Aegean civilisations

Professor Todd Whitelaw

Study of the development and collapse of the Minoan and Mycenaean states (ca. 3200-1100 BC) in the prehistoric Aegean, considered comparatively in terms of other early states world-wide. Field research focuses particularly on the nature and development of early urban centres and state landscapes.


Rice and Civilization in World History

Professor Dorian Fuller

Rice is both the staple grain of the most densely populated parts of Asia, and a food that is central to cultural traditions and identities throughout East, South and Southeast Asia. The origins, diversification and spread of rice agriculture are therefore fundamental to the character of the civilization(s) of monsoon Asia. The NERC-funded Early Rice Project is investigating these processes of rice origins through archaeological science and comparative ecological studies. This is providing insights into the parallels and regional differences in early rice agriculture in India, China and Thailand. We are also exploring the ethnographic, historical and archaeological evidence that sheds light on divisions within the rice world in terms of preference for sticky or non-sticky rices and conceptualization of rice as a goddess and an aspect of human fertility.


Translating cultures in Republican Rome

Professor Gesine Manuwald

The study of early Roman literature includes the analysis of how writers in Republican Rome engaged with Greek literature and culture by adopting its topics and formal structures and simultaneously adapting content and message to the different environment in Rome. Thus these authors bridged the two cultures and influenced Roman civilization by way of literature. This paradigm of two European civilizations interacting with each other then became influential for the subsequent cultural history of Europe. The question of how cultures were transposed and adopted in Republican Rome is central to work on early Roman drama as well as Cicero’s rhetorical and philosophical texts.

Latin GM

Calendars in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Professor Sacha Stern

This research project studies the evolution of calendars in late antique and medieval societies, with a special focus on Roman, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic calendars. The complex evolution of these calendars was closely related to politics, science, and religion, and contributed more widely to the standardization of culture in the ancient and medieval worlds.


Renaissance Civility

Dr Dilwyn Knox

A study of how the concept of civility (proper conduct that distinguishes a person from the beasts) was constructed and deployed by European visitors to America to authorise conquest.


Enlightenment histories of human civilisation

Avi Lifschitz, Senior Lecturer in European History

Eighteenth-century thinkers are renowned for their four-stage theory of the development of human societies, but a more crucial issue was why and how human civilisation could have evolved in the first place. If one takes the first human beings to have been completely uncivilised - lacking complex social structures, conventional codes of conduct, and perhaps even language - how might they have invented the first marks of civilisation? Enlightenment authors faced the conundrum of the transition from an entirely natural way of life to one characterised by human artifice. Considerations of this problem raised significant questions concerning the differences between the bestial and the human, while casting doubt on such traditional characteristics of humanity as reason, language, and social life.


Antiquity in silent cinema

Professor Maria Wyke

An investigation of the ways in which early cinema regularly set the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt and the nr. East in conflict with each other politically, ethically and aesthetically, and how they did so in part to support the imperialist and colonialist agendas of their countries of production.


Protecting and Presenting the Past

Dr Amara Thornton

In my investigations into the social history of late 19th and early 20th century British archaeology in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, the importance of the preservation and presentation of ancient civilisations for public consumption is clear. Archaeologists and architects played an important role in reconstructing archaeological sites and opening them up for tourists, shaping some of the most famous archaeological sites on the visitors’ checklist. The preservation of ancient sites was seen as a symbol of international prestige for modern ‘civilised’ nations.


René Girard and the dynamics of civilizational violence

Elisabetta Brighi

The contribution of René Girard to our thinking about the relation between violence, civilization and the sacred has yet to be fully acknowledged in the field of International Relations. This research aims to introduce and apply Girard’s ‘mimetic’ theory to the study of violence, especially of war and terrorism.


Economic Crisis, Heritage and Identity in Europe: The Greek Case

Dr Kalliopi Fouseki, Dr Eleni Vomvyla

This project aims to conduct a detailed mapping of the deconstruction and reconstruction of Modern Greek identity in the current economic, political and social crisis in Europe. It will do this by specifically looking at the relationship of identity and heritage as this is represented in the press and the social media since the beginning of the economic depression in Greece, 2009. The project will examine: a) the forms of heritage (tangible and intangible) depicted in the press and social media in relation to identity and the current economic and socio-political crisis in Greece b) how heritage is used as a means for deconstructing and reconstructing identity in the Greek press as well as the international press provoking these questions and c)  the impact of the above press discourse in shaping the public’s attitude and identity, as this is reflected in blogs and relevant social media comments. The project is funded by the UCL European Institute.


Concepts of the Foreign

Professor David Napier

How do the attitudes of various cultures (societies, civilisations) regarding notions of the 'foreign' change over time? Are there specific characteristics that lead to the assimilation or rejection of perceived 'others'?


Cultural creativity at the cross-roads of civilizations

Dr Alexandra Pillen

Ethnographic research on Kurdish cultures, and linguistic survival in the borderlands of Persian, Turkic, and Arab civilizations.


Digital Cities and Civil Society

Frederik Weissenborn, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

A study into the organisational dynamics of the digitized city. Cities and civil society (following Aristotle: the koinonia politiké) are fundamentally related, the socio-cultural community often arising from a dialectical process with the spatial environment surrounding it. What happens to this process when urban communities go digital?


Uncivilised Worlds: Heritage on the Margins

Professor Mike Rowlands, Professor Murray Fraser

Civilisations produce and reproduce conditions of incivility in borders and frontiers, also as marginal and migrant populations within and between them. Re-appropriating alternative civilities are features of contemporary social movements in conditions of globalisation.


Conflicts in Cultural Value: Localities and Heritage in South-western China

Harriet Evans, University of Westminster

Professor Mike Rowlands

This Leverhulme funded project explores the paradox of China’s cultural heritage practice: state heritage projects have been implemented by the Chinese leadership as part of the great renaissance of the Chinese nation, which is also stated by some people as the renaissance of the Chinese civilization. Yet they are premised on the apparent ‘destruction’ of cultural and natural heritage as part of the preservation process. By contrast diverse local and private initiatives regard heritage value as the shared ownership and transmission of a cultural past for the public good. Local identifications of what constitutes collective cultural survival will be explored in various sites in Sichuan and Yunan to raise crucial questions about the meaning and transmission of civilization and to challenge the European monopoly of heritage meaning.


Late Antique and early Islamic cities on the Silk Roads

Tim Williams, Institute of Archaeology

large-scale research exploring the archaeological and historical evidence for the transition from the Late Antique to early Islamic city along the Silk Roads. In particular this examines the spatial organisation and construction of urban space (street systems, the scale and location of public/private space, built/unbuilt space), visual construction (lines of sight, sense of place, etc.), the location of civic and social functions (administration, markets, etc.), the delineation of urban/suburban space, the organisation of water supply and sanitation, rubbish disposal, etc. Using the perspective of the longue durée, the research seeks to explore the impact of religious and secular administration, and cultural traditions, on urban planning, and the development of urban neighbourhoods. In doing so, it seeks to re-establish a civilisational scale of analysis for the societies between Late Antiquity and the Mongol conquests, exploring the spatial dynamics of a rapidly expanding Islamic world, followed by its fractious division into multiple polities, set within the context of interactions with empire systems beyond its boundaries. Liminality and shifting interactions over time characterise wider Silk Roads narratives of negotiating geographies and changing trading and military infrastructures, all of which overlay the changing character of urbanism in this huge region. Only long-term and large-scale analysis can explore the social and cultural nature of these urban communities.

This long-term research project (effectively commenced in 2002 with the establishment of the Ancient Merv Project www.ucl.ac.uk/merv) has focused on mapping Late Antique and early Islamic cities along the Silk Roads, through aerial survey and satellite imagery, and combining this with data collated from excavations, intensive field surveys and historical sources. In particular, the research focuses on the adaption of existing urban spaces (e.g. Damascus) and the creation of new Islamic cities (e.g. Sultan Kala at Merv).


Page last modified on 01 dec 15 09:56