The TimePage – Cycles in U. S. History

Cover of "Generations: The History of Ame...
“Generations” Cover via Amazon
Cover of "The Fourth Turning"
“The Fourth Turning”
Cover via Amazon

My main contribution to the prevailing Internet cacophony is the website The website is an examination of social and generational cycles in United States history. The ideas are not mine. They are derived from the writings of William Strauss and Neil Howe, primarily from two books – “Generations” and “The Fourth Turning.”


After reading “Generations” in the early ’90s, I was so enthralled with the book’s ideas that I immediately started to build an historical spreadsheet model based on them. Coincidentally I had also just discovered the World Wide Web and, although it took a couple of years for me to make the connection, it inevitably became clear that the two belonged together. Slowly but surely, as I learned how to use HTML, a crude one-page summary of “Generations” came to life on the web. This happened about 1996.

By 2001 the one page outline had swollen to many pages and had become a multi-layered monster with long complicated web addresses on my free web space, at the ISP I was using at the time, and thousands of external links. It was time to make a major change. I purchased the domain, signed up for a commercial web service and redesigned everything from scratch. Keep in mind that I am not a computer geek so all of this was still pretty low tech in relation to the great stuff that was coming to the web at the time, but it seemed a lot better to me. The results of that effort are essentially what you see at the TimePage today. I have made some minor changes to the design and the content has continued to evolve but, in general, it is the same site.

One of the unintended consequences of this effort is that I have one page on the site that built enough of a reputation in the schools that, even though it doesn’t deal with the cycles theory at all, generates a huge share of all of the traffic to the site. That is my page devoted to the original 13 British colonies – called 13 Originals. If you Google “13 Colonies” you will get that page, sometimes as the first listing. You never know.

I am currently rethinking the TimePage for the umpteenth time and have started to make some changes once again. These changes will incorporate my new found interest in genealogy and will introduce a slightly different focus on the nature of the content but it will still be about the ideas I originally encountered in my first reading of “Generations” which I will try to summarize below.

Social Cycles in United States History
Strauss and Howe, in their book “Generations,” proposed a model of U. S. History that consisted of five unique cycles of social change.  Each of these cycles, in turn, were composed of four recurring  generational eras, each shaped by current events and by interactions between the living generational cohorts (you can find a representation of the Author’s “Generational” model here and the accompanying model for the historic eras here).  We are now approaching, or most likely living, the fourth and final era in the fifth cycle of this model. *

It is the Author’s contention that the social behaviors of the populations living in similar eras follow a distinct, collective pattern in each of the five cycles. In other words, during the first, and each subsequent, era of each cycle society tends to exhibit similar traits. Their explanation for these similarities is based on how significant events shape the outlook of an entire generation and how that outlook in turn effects the cohorts reactions to events and relationships with other generational cohorts throughout its lifespan. The theory seems imprecise at best and, in some ways, maybe even downright flaky but it seems to do an amazing job of fitting the historical data for the United States.

The TimePage is an attempt to tie U. S. History to this model in a way that will illustrate the theory, but more importantly, illustrate the History.   Personally, I have found it much easier to keep the flow of U. S. History organized in my thoughts since I read “Generations.”  If this website accomplishes nothing else I hope it can do the same for you.

* Strauss and Howe’s book “The Fourth Turning” deals exclusively with the application of the Generations Theory to our present situation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a Reply