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Cultura is a research project aimed at quantifying cultural & science productivity in time and space using Big Data


Quantifying & explaining the cultural productivity

We built a composite index of cultural production, using Wikipedia entries of more than 70.000 writers, scientists and artists in 15 languages, geographically balanced. To validate our index, we first confirm that the evolution of our index of cultural production is in line with qualitative descriptions of economic golden ages (e.g. 5th c. Greece, Abbasid Caliphate, Tang Dynasty, 17th c. Netherlands), as well as geographical shifts in economic centers of gravity (e.g. from South to North in Early Modern Europe, from North to South in Late Imperial China). Five findings emerge: 1) Before the Industrial Revolution, there is no long lasting period of growth in cultural production; 2) In the Mediterranean, cultural productivity peaked during the Classical period (500 – 300 BCE) and never recovered, despite short periods of growth during the Roman period; 3) In Central Asia, the Arab and Persian regions achieved very high level of cultural productivity but started to decline as early as 1100; 4) In Eastern Asia, cultural productivity  peaked during the Gupta in India, the Tang dynasty in China and the Heian era in Japan; 5) In the Early Modern period, the roots of high cultural productivity appear much older than previously thought with Northwestern Europe and Japan showing signs of high productivity as early as 1500. Finally, we demonstrate that there is a strong association between cultural production and several proxies of economic development (GDP per capita, urbanization, book production), and that this association is robust to the choice of artistic activities, proxies of creativity and language of Wikipedia we discuss the potential of using cultural production to measure economic development.


Quantifying the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution is one of the most important phenomena in human history. Yet it is ill understood, partly because of
a lack of quantification. Here, we leverage large datasets of individual biographies to build national estimates of scientific production during the early modern period. While aggregate levels of national production are unsurprising, per capita estimates
reveal striking differences across countries, with the two richest countries of the time (England and the United Provinces) being much more scientifically productive than the rest of Europe.
Overall, our study demonstrates a strong association between scientific creativity and per capita income. We also show that
scientific creativity is associated with other kinds of creative activities in philosophy, literature, music and the arts, suggesting a
common underlying factor. Our results also challenge long-held hypotheses regarding the role of religion, universities, demography, and the printing press, and support the idea that economic development and rising living standards are key to explaining the rise of modern science.

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