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Newton and the Origin of Civilization$
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Jed Z. Buchwald and Mordechai Feingold

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691154787

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691154787.001.0001

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Newtonian History

Newtonian History

(p.195) 6 Newtonian History
Newton and the Origin of Civilization

Jed Z. Buchwald

Mordechai Feingold

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers Isaac Newton’s conceptualization of the origins of monarchies. In 1702, Newton penned the “Original of Monarchies” following the death of William III. At the heart of the new project was the question of whether large empires had existed prior to the four monarchies mentioned by Daniel, namely Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. If not, and Newton believed this to be the case, how to account for the seemingly well-documented counter examples of ancient empires, namely Egypt and Assyria? According to Newton’s theory, population growth during the early, postdiluvian era led to the rise of towns inhabited by multiple families. Coexistence of many families, in turn, required governance, and so the “fathers of families” united to produce a common set of laws, eventually choosing a “judge” to adjudicate among the families on the basis of such agreed-upon laws. These governed towns later morphed into larger units, “cities,” which were administered by councils of “elders.” Villages arose in the vicinities of the cities, and the authority of the judges extended to them, thereby producing the first conurbation that could be termed a “kingdom.” Over time these cities expanded further still, either by joining together under a common “captain,” or through conquest, to form an empire.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, monarchy, Original of Monarchies, ancient empires, population growth, civilization

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