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Crisis to Collapse

Tim Cunningham
Jan Driessen

II. From Epistemology to Ontology : the Paradigm of the Lost Civilisation

5. Reading the Thirteenth Century BC in Greece

Crisis, Decline, or Business as Usual ?

Guy D. Middleton

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How we interpret the period preceding a collapse is important both in the desire to achieve historical accuracy and in that it affects the way we understand the collapse itself1. Intuition tells us that there must have been problems of some kind, crises or decline, prior to any collapse - enemies at the gate, structural issues in the functioning of society, economic or subsistence concerns, revolts or uprisings, elite faction, problems with succession, cracks in the dominant ideology, and so on. Problems such as these may have become tangled together into a web of causality, with each causing a loss of resilience, magnifying the deleterious effects of other factors, and leading ultimately to the collapse of a system.

But as Bronson (1988: 198) has pointed out “the symptoms of decline are rarely easy to recognise, in spite of the folklore that tells us that things get worse as the end approaches”. He suggests that if we pick a random year in the history of a state, we wi...

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