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Why The West Rules For Now: The Patterns of History and what they reveal about the Future [Hardcover]

Ian Morris
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Nov 2010
Why did British boats shoot their way up the Yangzi in 1842, rather than Chinese ones up the Thames? Why do Easterners use English more than Europeans speak in Mandarin or Japanese? To put it bluntly, why does the West rule? There are two schools of thought: the 'Long-Term Lock In' theory, suggesting some sort of inevitability, and the 'Short-Term Accident' theory. But both approaches have misunderstood the shape of history.Ian Morris presents a startling new theory. He explains with flair and authority why the paths of development differed in the East and West and - analysing a vicious twist in trajectories just ahead of us - predicts when the West's lead will come to an end.'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'A great work of synthesis and argument, drawing together an awesome range of materials and authorities to bring us a fresh, sharp reading of East-West relationships.' Andrew Marr

Product details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (4 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846681472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846681479
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


`A great work of synthesis and argument, drawing together an awesome range of materials and authorities' --Andrew Marr

`The nearest thing to a unified field theory of history we are ever likely to get ... I loved it.' --Niall Ferguson

'Deeply thought-provoking and engagingly lively, broad in sweep and precise in detail.'
--Jonathan Fenby, author of The Penguin History of Modern China, former Editor of The Observer and former Editor of the South China Morning Post

`Ian Morris has returned history to the position it once held ... His vision is dazzling, and his prose irresistible.'
--Anthony Pagden, distinguished professor of political science and history at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of `Worlds and War: The 2,500 Year Struggle Between East and West'

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

`Astonishing ... hundreds of pages of the latest information dealing with every aspect of change' --David S. Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

`Formidable, richly engrossing ... A superior contribution to the grand-theory-of-human-history genre' --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

`Remarkable ... Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should start here.' --The Economist

`Morris is the world's most talented historian... he has brilliantly pulled off what few modern academics would dare to attempt' --Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs

`Read, learn, and enjoy!' -- Jared Diamond

`So important...one doffs one's hat to Morris's breadth, ambition and erudition'
-- Paul Kennedy, Sunday Times

`Morris handles huge ideas and transglobal theories with a breathtaking ease and humour.'
--Artemis Cooper, Evening Standard

`A path-breaking work that lays out what modern history should look like.' --Financial Times

Book Description

Why does the West rule? Eminent Stanford polymath Ian Morris answers this provocative question, drawing uniquely on 20,000 years of history and archaeology, and the methods of social science.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and thought provoking 10 Nov 2010
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By Alan
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Morris manages his book like a composer orchestrating complex themes. Like music, the blend of ideas makes logical and aesthetic sense. Yet the book is not full of its own worthiness; it is often humorous, often vernacular, always well-read and always accessible. The short chapter sections (with witty headings) lead you to read this episodically, so it could be an ideal bed-side book. Above all, it is a cogent analysis of history from a true polymath who sees the horizon as much as the ground under his feet; even if you do not buy the analysis, it is a stimulus to thinking about global development in ways you had not previously contemplated.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
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!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting theory, good general history 22 Aug 2012
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and convincing thesis 3 May 2011
By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pictured on the dust cover, Ian Morris looks like central casting's idea of the rather less than satisfactory new husband of the ex-wife of the hero in a US TV cop series, probably, like Morris himself, English. Fortunately, given this image, Morris proves himself a much more than satisfactory author and analyst of the past, placing him firmly close to David Landes's tour de force The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations in its scope and ambition, marginally superior to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs And Steel in its audacity and conclusions, and almost on a par with Douglass North's Understanding The Process Of Economic Change in providing a coherent framework for doing exactly that. I will also claim a sort of affinity with a working class boy from the industrial Midlands, who got Betta Bilda for Xmas when he was young and developed an interest in everything and how it all joins together.

Some of Morris's tale is, of course, fairly familiar to anyone who has read from the embarrassment of riches in the published economic, social, political and science histories of the last decade or so. Most will know of the extraordinary scale of the eunuch admiral Zheng-he's imperial Chinese fleet of the early 15th Century, and of how insularity and complacency curtailed its adventures; of how Muslims invented or protected an awful lot of what was worth having and knowing for a millennium, before conservative zealots decided that such things threatened their power; and of how the largely man-made miseries of the 20th Century gave way to a less zero-sum world in which second place was still first loser, but at least you didn't need fifty million body bags to start to clear up the mess (which isn't to say we're completely through with large-scale blood-letting, unfortunately).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting history of the world but it explains nothing that it...
I started off thinking this book would be a 4/5* book, then as I continued on through it my rating decreased until I considered giving it a 1*, it scrapped a 2* because some of the... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of the world under one cover
This is the best single volume history of the world I have ever read. What makes it even better is that it is also numerate history, with many numbers, graphs and tables to back... Read more
Published 1 month ago by S JONES
2.0 out of 5 stars naive approach
The author claims that he does not give another "long term lock-in" theory but this what he does albeit his theory is disguised with probabilistic alternatives; states that the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by marmallad
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice book.
Good idea and a lot of valuable information in a good way of organization. I will recommend this book to my friends who are also interested in this topic.
Published 4 months ago by Xuwen Liu
5.0 out of 5 stars Best overview book I have read in ages
Anyone wanting an overview of western and eastern civilization from the last Ice Age until the present - written in the most entertaining and likeable style - and the reasons for... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Evelynaswell
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This is a new history of the world starting with the hunter-gatherers and finishing now. While is has an irritatingly cute title and reads as if the publisher has told the author... Read more
Published 8 months ago by David in Kent
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent
An exceedingly well researched, thought-provoking, and well written account of history and what it might mean for the future. I highly recommend it.
Published 9 months ago by Richard Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, the concise but thorough history of mankind worldwide, I...
A most enlightening book, It has changed my view on mankind's development through the ages and filled in many gaps. I now need to read more!
Published 10 months ago by si
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
This book should be required reading for all world leaders as we approach the most critical period in human history.
Published 12 months ago by Marc Kenton
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Although many of the arguments are similar to Jared Diamond's books; Guns, Germs and Steel, and Collapse, he gives an brilliantly grand overview world history which helps the... Read more
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