Why The West Rules--For Now: The Patterns Of History, And What They Reveal About The Future

Ian Morris

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West’s rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last?

Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions. It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals, that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.

Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules—for Now spans fifty thousand years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page. The book brings together the latest findings across disciplines—from ancient history to neuroscience—not only to explain why the West came to rule the world but also to predict what the future will bring in the next hundred years.


A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

Selected as one of the Best Books of the Year, The Economist, 2010

One of Newsweek’s “21 Ways to Be Smarter in 2011”

Longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Books 2011

Top 20 Recommended Titles, Global Thinkers Book Club, November 2011

“… a fascinating account of the progress of two poles of civilisation.”
Financial Times

“Fortunately, Morris is a lucid thinker and a fine writer. He uses a minimum of academic jargon and is possessed of a welcome sense of humor that helps him guide us through this grand game of history as if her were an erudite sportscaster.”
New York Times Book Review

“An entertaining and plausible book by a British historian at Stanford University that shows how debates about the rise of China or the fall of the West are ultimately a sideshow, as nature will bite back savagely at human society.”
The Economist
“Some critics are sniffy about the dodgy meta-theorising so often involved in the ‘rise and fall of civilisations’ genre. Often, they're right...Morris, if not immune to such assault, has produced maybe the best-argued, most thought-provoking of all such exercises.”
The Independent
“In his new book, [Ian Morris] risks the wrath of specialists as he draws on archaeology, ancient history, sociology and neuroscience in a stunningly informative, imaginative and engaging account, spanning 50,000 years of the ‘social development’ of the West and East -- and what the future might hold . . . Mr. Morris has shown, brilliantly and in vivid detail, that history is not ‘just one damned thing after another’ but ‘the same old same old, a single grand and relentless process of adaptation to the world that always generates new problems that call for further adaptations.’ And he's persuaded at least one reader that history can explain the differences that divide humanity and help ‘prevent them from destroying us.’ ” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“One doffs one’s hat to Morris’s breadth, ambition and erudition.”
The London Times 

“ [A] provocative and extraordinary contribution to wide-screen comparative history… a true banquet of ideas...”
The Independent
"Morris' history of world dominance sparkles as much with exotic ideas as with extraordinary tales. 'Why The West Rules - For Now' is both a riveting drama and a major step towards an integrated theory of history."
Richard Wrangham

“At last—a brilliant historian with a light touch. We should all rejoice.”    
John Julius Norwich

“Deeply thought-provoking and engagingly lively, broad in sweep and precise in detail.”
Jonathan Fenby, author of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 to the Present

"Morris' history of world dominance sparkles as much with exotic ideas as with extraordinary tales. 'Why The West Rules - For Now' is both a riveting drama and a major step towards an integrated theory of history."
Richard Wrangham

"A formidable, richly engrossing effort to determine why Western institutions dominate the world. … readers will enjoy his lively prose and impressive combination of scholarship (à la Oswald Spengler or Arthur Toynbee) with economics and science (à la Jared Diamond).
A superior contribution to the grand-theory-of-human-history genre."
Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Ian Morris has returned history to the position it once held.  No longer a series of dusty debates, nor simple stories - although he has many stories to tell and tells them brilliantly - but the true 'magister vitae' – the 'teacher of life'.  He explains how the shadowy East-West divide came about, why it really does matter, and how one day it might end up. His vision is dazzling, and his prose irresistible. Everyone from Sheffield to Shanghai who wants to know, not only how they came to be who and where they are, but where their children and their children’s children might one day end up, must read this book.”
Anthony Pagden, author of Worlds at War. The 2,500 Year Struggle Between East and West

“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 at UCLA, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and Natural Experiments of History

"This is an astonishing work by Ian Morris: hundreds of pages of the latest information dealing with every aspect of change.  Then, the question of the future: what will a new distribution bring about?  Are we going to have Europe give rise to a major change?  Will the millions of immigrants settle for a new set of rules and impose them on the rest?  There was a time when Europe could absorb any and all newcomers.  Now the comers may dictate the terms.  The West may continue to rule, but the rule may be very different."
David Landes