I think the way men represent to themselves the future ( I mean here what is about to arrive within a period of say, half a century) is part of their present. The anticipations ( positive or negative) of the next historical period are , somewhat, part of a given historical period.

( In the same way as our anticipations about what we are about to see are part of what we see while discovering a city for example, which explains that a city never has the same charm as the first time we saw it; in the same way as our anticipations about what our life was going to be were part of our youth , and made this youth so beautiful).

Has a history of these anticipations ever been written? I mean a history of the alledged " trends" and " tendencies" men thought ( often misleadingly) were operating " in the depth" during the period they were presently living?

Note : I'm not thinking specially of anticipations regarding technology; rather of anticipations regarding politics, religion, society.

  • 3
    Are you talking about something like the Paleofuture blog, examining historical views of the future? Nov 17, 2019 at 21:25
  • 2
    You’re looking for a history of speculations about the future. We don’t do book recommendations here. Nov 18, 2019 at 1:51
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    The Futures Studies page on wikipedia includes a history section.
    – nwr
    Nov 18, 2019 at 3:34
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    @GorttheRobot. Thanks for this link!
    – user41010
    Nov 18, 2019 at 10:54
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    This question is difficult to express clearly! I think the last paragraph makes it ten times harder since the concept of "technology" probably imposes a rather narrow window on the question. Preliminary research would help significantly - All questions should address what research has been done and why Wikipedia is insufficient to answer.
    – MCW
    Nov 18, 2019 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure whether my proposition answers exactly your question. But is a good start.

There are some historians who study trends in history, which means, they try to find patterns in history that might explain it, and in some way describe a the potential future based in the models they have. This is not Psychohistory as one might hope to find, but instead is called Philosophy of history. Some interesting authors are Ibn Khaldun, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee or maybe recently Peter Turchin, Francis Fukuyama or Samuel Huntington.
From that list of authors, maybe Spengler or Fukuyama are the ones who tried to describe a potential future for western civilization, even thoug Fukuyama later had to modify his prediction.

Who was more effective to describe the future? Maybe Khaldun, whose theory of asabiyyah was strong enough to describe the dynamic of invasions that came from dessert tribes.

I recommend you start with Huntington or Turchin. They are contemporary. Or, if you have time, the abridged version of Study of History.

  • I think Marx and Engels had some things to say about how they expected societies to evolve over time based on models they formulated... Nov 18, 2019 at 20:56

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