Applying insights from a massive historical research project—Seshat: Global History Databank—this edited volume reveals that there was no single “Axial Age” in human history.
Instead, it points to cross-cultural parallels in the co-evolution of egalitarian ideals and constraints on political authority with sociopolitical complexity.The first book-length publication to make use of Seshat’s systematic approach to collecting information about the human past, The Seshat History of the Axial Age expands the Axial Age debate beyond first-millennium BCE Eurasia. Fourteen chapters survey earlier and later periods as well as developments in regions previously neglected in Axial Age discussions. The conclusion? There was no identifiable Axial Age confined to a few Eurasian hotspots in the last millennium BCE. However, “axiality” as a cluster of traits emerged time and again whenever societies reached a certain threshold of scale and level of complexity.