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Why The West Rules--For Now Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Length: 768 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Review

A provocative and extraordinary contribution to wide-screen comparative history... a true banquet of ideas (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

An important book - one that challenges, stimulates and entertains. Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should start here (Economist)

Perhaps the smartest and sanest guide to the twenty-first century so far (South China Morning Post)

One doffs one's hat to Morris's breadth, ambition and erudition (Paul Kennedy Sunday Times)

Morris is the world's most talented ancient historian, a man as much at home with state of-the-art archaeology as with the classics as they used to be studied. Here, he has brilliantly pulled off what few modern academics would dare to attempt (Niall Ferguson Foreign Affairs)

Morris handles huge ideas and transglobal theories with a breathtaking ease and humour (Artemis Cooper Evening Standard, Books of the Year)

[an] enjoyable and thought-provoking book (Nicholas Shakespeare Telegraph)

A lucid thinker and a fine writer (New York Times)

The nearest thing to a unified field theory of history we are ever likely to get. With wit and wisdom, Ian Morris deploys the techniques and insights of the new ancient history to address the biggest of all historical questions: Why on earth did the West beat the Rest? I loved it. (Niall Ferguson)

At last - a brilliant historian with a light touch. We should all rejoice. (John Julius Norwich)

A formidable, richly engrossing effort to determine why Western institutions dominate the world . . . Readers will enjoy [Morris's] lively prose and impressive combination of scholarship . . . with economics and science. A superior contribution to the grand-theory-of-human-history genre (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

Review

'A writer of such breathtaking vision and scope as to make him fit to be ranked alongside the likes of Jared Diamond and David Landes' - Professor Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Cambridge University 'Here you have three books wrapped into one: an exciting novel that happens to be true; an entertaining but thorough historical account of everything important that happened to any important people in the last 10 millennia; and an educated guess about what will happen in the future. Read, learn, and enjoy!' Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and Natural Experiments of History

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7375 KB
  • Print Length: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (4 Nov. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004ASNG04
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #43,480 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Ian Morris teaches classics, history, and archaeology at Stanford University. Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1960, he now lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. He has won awards for his writing and teaching, and has directed archaeological digs in Greece and Italy. He has also published 13 books, which have been translated into 13 languages. His newest book, "War! What is It Good For?" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Profile 2014), looks at war from prehuman times to our own, making two controversial claims--first, that war has helped humanity as well as harming it; and second, that war is now changing out of all recognition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book tries to be a lot of things, and doesn't quite get there on a lot of them. What it does do though, is give an entertaining read.

The author has a theory made up of a couple of essential strands.

Firstly, that if you look at the historical record then you can detect patterns. Essentially that when societies reach a certain level of development and size that the pressures upon them cause them to collapse, and that the only way that a society can can get round this problem is to innovate. The classic example being the industrial revolution.

Secondly, that civilisation areas, East and West have core areas. These core areas change with time, and what might be one era's core can be another era's backward periphery. The author argues persuasively that backward areas regularly take over as core areas because there is a benefit to being backwards in that it helps you catch up. Examples of this in the West might be Persia, or Egypt or Rome, or Renaissance Europe.

The devil to all this, is of course in the detail, and the bulk of the book is a summary of history in the Eastern and Western civilisation areas, going back to the last ice age, which builds on the authors arguments. Even if you don't buy into the authors arguments, it is worth reading this book just for this summary, which certainly gives you a new perception on how civilisations develop, and is a pithy introduction Chinese history set against the more familiar context of the West.

The book doesn't quite live up to it's promise in a number of ways.
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Format: Hardcover
Like most of us living in the West I have have pondered this question from time to time. Why did the west come out in front, and will it last? Should we all start learning Chinese? And was it inevitable - were Westerners more open-minded, or harder working, or were we just super-lucky to have had the industrial revolution? Or was it simply the work of exceptional people such as Julius Caesar, James Watt or Columbus?

Morris looks at this from a different angle. He uses an index of social development to analyse how societies have risen and fallen (including energy capture, organisation/urbanisation, war-making and information technology). But most importantly he tells a brilliant story of global history. It's a big book, but it has to be, to cover its full scope.

Part history, part archaeology, part geography, part biology and part sociology it is the work of a real polymath. It's incredibly readable too, beginning with a terrific fantasy of how things might have been. I didn't agree with all of it but it's still the best history book I've read this year. You may guess that I felt stongly about this book.
5 Comments 88 of 94 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Was just given this by a friend last week and have already finished it. I have to say this is the best non-fiction book I've read this year. I found it completely riveting, right from the introduction which is written as though the Chinese had triumphed over England in Victorian times rather than the reverse. That's just the start of Morris' investigation into why it didn't happen like that, and in fact why it is so hard to imagine this ever having been on the cards.
His theory involves going back 15,000 years and tracing the progress of East and West since then. He then uses this analysis to look ahead to the future - which is pretty scary.Obviously it's a very ambitious theory and I'm sure it could be quite controversial, but Niall Ferguson says he's the world's most talented historian and I can't disagree. If you want to understand the story behind the global socio-economic landscape we live in today, read this book!
1 Comment 39 of 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book of enormous breadth and vision which identifies sufficient recurrent patterns in the forces of social development to provide us not only with a structure in which to make sense of the whole sweep of human history but also a tool in which to predict the future direction of society (the singular, as becomes clear at the end, is significant).

In attempting to explain why societies develop, and specifically why the very broadly defined `East' (effectively China) and `West' (societies and empires from Mesopotamia to the US) have developed at different rates and in different directions, Ian Morris takes the reader on a journey through human history, from bi pedal East African apes 2.5 million years ago to the banking failures and economic crash of 2008-9.

In doing so he draws on research from a bewildering range of academic disciplines to illustrate his central thesis, which is that biology, sociology and, particularly, geography combine to drive social development. He demolishes theories which suggest that the West's financial, technical and military lead over the East is due to inbuilt cultural or genetic advantages or inevitably `locked in'.

Instead Morris believes that societal development, which he assesses using his own metrics based largely on energy capture, is driven by biology, sociology and, most significantly, geography. Recurring patterns can be identified as peripheral societies take advantage of opportunities presented by backwardness, technological change or turmoil in the established core to capitalise on their (temporary) geographical advantages to join, or overtake, the `civilised' core. By this means the core expands or moves (for example from the Mediterranean to north western Europe to North America and, soon, to China).
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