Studying long-term processes in human history has over the past decades become a broad and multidisciplinary affair, which draws on various intellectual traditions. The work of sociologist Johan Goudsblom, to whom this special issue is dedicated, was an effort to transgress disciplinary bound-aries and to synthesise different perspectives in this field. In this introduction we distinguish four important scholarly lineages: social evolutionism, Dar-winian theory, historical sociology, and world history with its extensions into environmental history and big history. We characterise in broad outlines each of these traditions and specify how Goudsblom combined parts of them in his own work on long-term social processes, extending in particular the sociol-ogy of Norbert Elias. The final section of this introduction gives a summary overview of the content of this HSR Special Issue.