news archive
What is the CECD? 
The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

Page Title - home


As a world leader in its field, the AHRC CECD will advance understanding of human cultural diversity. It will be a collaborative institution involving a large national and international network. Its research programme will focus on the relation between cultural and linguistic diversity, as these influence and respond to variation in the size and structure of human populations. Methodological and theoretical advances in evolutionary biology will be adapted and applied to a wide range of case studies in cultural history. The Centre will undertake a major outreach programme to convey the importance of this work to academic and non-academic audiences.

Aims and Objectives:

The CECD is a Phase Two AHRC Research Centre (2006-2010), building on the earlier work of the AHRB Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour. The AHRC CECD will exploit the CEACB’s established position as a world leader to accelerate the development of the new discipline of cultural evolutionary studies. This is emerging in the interstices of several existing fields, including archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, human genetics and mathematical modelling, with the aim of understanding the evolution of human cultural diversity. We will achieve this:

• By setting up collaborative research networks with other groups and individuals currently working in relative isolation from one another to produce a critical mass of workers and projects in this field.

• By working with these networks to carry out a series of research projects on key issues for the understanding of cultural evolution.

• By training a new generation of researchers, not just within a single institution but through the holding of open international summer schools and exchange visits.

• By developing and disseminating new theoretical ideas and methodological tools.

• By fostering the building of publicly available databases of the kind that are now mandatory in evolutionary biology.

• By setting up administrative structures that support the maintenance of long-term links between researchers and institutions.

• By making the wider academic and non-academic community aware of the new discipline and its significance through an outreach programme.


We have identified three key themes on which the collaborative programme will focus:

• What has been the role of demographic expansions and contractions in accounting for major cultural changes in the past?

• What are the links between the processes producing cultural and linguistic diversity and how do patterns in the two relate to one another?

• How do innovations arise and diffuse in complex social networks?


The following performance targets will be achieved by the AHRC CECD within the next five years:

• At least twenty completed research projects and twelve successful research meetings, with associated delivery of at least forty research articles and five edited volumes.

• Successful training and career progression of a substantial new cohort of Centre PhD students and post-docs.

• Initiation and (in some cases) completion of several successful networking activities, including at least two major externally-funded collaborative research projects and at least five co-organized research meetings.

• A structured outreach programme, with completed packs of materials for museums and schools, and with completed broadcast and print media campaigns, in each case with objective indications of impact and uptake.