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Generation is the act of producing offspring, or procreation. It is also the act of bringing something into being. A generation can also be a stage or degree in the succession of natural descent (such as grandfather, father, and son are three generations) or stages of successive improvement in the development of something.

A generation can also represent all the people born at about the same time. Historians hold differing opinions as to what extent dividing history into generations is useful or an improper over-generalization.

The Strauss & Howe "Generations" Theory

William Strauss[?] and Neil Howe[?] in their books Generations and The Fourth Turning divide Anglo-American history into saecula, or seasonal cycles of history, and divide the saecula into generations by birth year, and classify generations and historical periods into four types each.

As history molds generations, so do generations mold history. Modern Anglo-American history runs on a two-stroke rhythm. The two strokes are an Awakening and a Crisis.

A High is an era between a Crisis and an Awakening, and an Unraveling is an era between an Awakening and a Crisis.

The four types of generations are as follows:

  • A Prophet (or Idealist) generation is born during a High, spends its rising adult years during an Awakening, spends midlife during an Unraveling, and spends old age in a Crisis. Prophetic leaders have been cerebral and principled, summoners of human sacrifice, wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, few saw combat in uniform; late in life, most come to be revered as much for their words as for their deeds.

  • A Nomad (or Reactive) generation is born during an Awakening, spends its rising adult years during an Unraveling, spends midlife during a Crisis, and spends old age in a new High. Nomadic leaders have been cunning, hard-to-fool realists, taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.

  • A Hero (or Civic) generation is born during an Unraveling, spends its rising adult years during a Crisis, spends midlife during a High, and spends old age in an Awakening. Heroic leaders have been vigorous and rational institution-builders, busy and competent in old age. All of them entering midlife were aggressive advocates of technological progress, economic prosperity, social harmony, and public optimism.

  • An Artist (or Adaptive) generation is born during a Crisis, spends its rising adult years in a new High, spends midlife in an Awakening, and spends old age in an Unraveling. Artistic leaders have been advocates of fairness and the politics of inclusion, irrepressible in the wake of failure.

The list of generations and their types is as follows:

 GENERATION                TYPE        BIRTH YEARS
 ----------                ----        -----------        
 Late Medieval Saeculum:
  Arthurian                Hero        1433-1460
  Humanist                 Artist      1461-1482

 Reformation Saeculum:
  Reformation              Prophet     1483-1511
  Reprisal                 Nomad       1512-1540
  Elizabethan              Hero        1541-1565
  Parliamentarian          Artist      1566-1587

 New World Saeculum:
  Puritan                  Prophet     1588-1617
  Cavalier                 Nomad       1618-1647
  Glorious                 Hero        1648-1673
  Enlightenment            Artist      1674-1700

 Revolutionary Saeculum:
  Awakening                Prophet     1701-1723
  Liberty                  Nomad       1724-1741
  Republican               Hero        1742-1766
  Compromise               Artist      1767-1791

 Civil War Saeculum:
  Transcendental           Prophet     1792-1821
  Gilded                   Nomad       1822-1842
  Progressive              Artist      1843-1859

 Great Power Saeculum:
  Missionary               Prophet     1860-1882
  Lost                     Nomad       1883-1900
  G.I.                     Hero        1901-1924
  Silent                   Artist      1925-1942

 Millennial Saeculum:
  Boom                     Prophet     1943-1960
  13th                     Nomad       1961-1981
  Millenial                Hero?       1982-2003?

According to the above chart, generational types have appeared in Anglo-American history in a fixed order for more than 500 years, with one hiccup in the Civil War Saeculum. (The reasons for this is because according to the chart, the Civil War came about ten years too early; the adult generations allowed the worst aspects of their generational personalities to come through; and the Progressives grew up scarred rather than ennobled.)

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