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Why the West Rules—for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,098 ratings  ·  348 reviews
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011 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 globa ...more
ebook, 768 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2010)
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Jeff Munn This book is a fantastic read if you want an overview of human history and where the author believes it’s heading. The Industrial Revolution was only…moreThis book is a fantastic read if you want an overview of human history and where the author believes it’s heading. The Industrial Revolution was only covered in section two and covered the wave tops. If you have to write a paper on the Time period, I’d look at a more focused book; however, the author provided excellent views on what the Industrial Revolution did to advance Western dominance after 1800.(less)

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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  4,098 ratings  ·  348 reviews


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Mal Warwick
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Something strange was afoot. A mere geographer, Jared Diamond, had had the temerity to publish a history book, upending centuries of historians’ speculations about the reasons why civilization first developed in the Middle East. It was 2005, and the book was Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Five years later an archaeologist, Ian Morris, wrote another history book (for the general reader!) called Why the West Rules — for Now. Building on Diamond’s thesis, Morris laid out his own, more comprehensive
...more
Emma Sea
Wow, all those four- and five-star reviews. I disagree.

First up, it should be called Why China Hasn't Ruled the World Up Till Now, But Will After 2103.

The book opens with an AU, in which the Chinese navy forces Queen Victoria to swear fealty, and takes Albert hostage to ensure her co-operation. Morris asks, "Why did British boats shoot their way up the Yangzi in 1842, rather than Chinese ones up the Thames?" (p. 11) This is an exciting and interesting question. Morris finally answers it 546 rather wearisome pages
...more
Marc
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-history
This is another real doorstopper (750 pages, without notes and bibliography) about "the Great Divergence", the debate about why the West has gained such a head start in human history that it has come to dominate the world. Archaeologist Ian Morris is not just anyone, he’s a professor at Stanford University (California), and has a good reputation in Western ancient history. It is a bold undertaking that he has dared to tackle this tricky issue that so many others have gotten their teeth in. Judgi ...more
Mark
Mar 11, 2012 rated it liked it
First off, this is a very readable, interesting and often insightful book. It works as a good history of development in East Asia and Europe.

I have mixed feelings about the scale of Morris' ambition, though. Or maybe just his framing.

He seems like he very much wants to the scholar who has *the* theory that explains why Europe came from behind to zoom past China in the last couple centuries, but to some extent the explanation is "civilizations face crises, if they are luck
...more
Josh Brett
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While the title "Why the West Rules ... For Now" suggests a right wing polemic mourning the decline of Western Civilization, something written by Niall Ferguson at best, and Mark Levin at worst, Ian Morris' weighty volume is far from it (in fact, he has been criticized as being too culturally relativist). Instead, Ferguson gives a survey of the long view of human history, bringing into focus patterns that are obscured when one views history in terms of decades and centuries. Morris' book is in t ...more
David
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Astounding! I was fascinated by the premise of the book (why DOES the West rule, anyway?) but I was blown away by the scope! To make his case, Morris starts us at the dawn of humankind and takes us on a guided tour through all periods of human history until a little less than a year ago.

His writing is wonderful. I felt as though I had a firm grasp on the big picture throughout the entire book. His tone is conversational and he interjects very mild humor where appropriate. As someone
...more
Sense of  History
An original contribution to the Great Divergence Debate, but with some essential weaknesses
I’ll start with the strengths of this book, and also the presentation of his Morris' central theses and method. The charm of Ian Morris' work is that he combines modesty and boldness. His entire book, for example, is based on the view that human history is driven by 3 petty human impulses: that people are lazy, greedy and fearful and always seek solutions to their problems based on those three characteristics. Ti
...more
Blair
We open with the Chinese navy sailing up the Thames, forcing Queen Victoria to sign a humiliating treaty and taking Prince Albert back to China as a hostage. Why did this story in fact happen the other way around? After all, five hundred years ago the outcome was not obvious.

Ian Morris explores this question by presenting the entire history of a world reduced to two regions, which he chooses to call East and West. The East essentially means China, while the West is defined as the descendants of
...more
Silash Ruparell
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: silash-reviews
This review also appears on my blog at www.silashruparell.com

My one-liner: Quite simply the best popular history book you will ever read. Astounding survey of historical forces that have shaped today’s world.

At the top of the front cover of this book, there is the following quote from Niall Ferguson: “The nearest thing to a unified field theory of history we are ever likely to see”. That is not far off the mark, and it would be impossible to do justice to the breathtaking breadth covered by this
...more
Charlene
This book was Fantastic! A+

Morris' main focus is "energy capture". He examines how organisms capture energy from the sun and from their surrounding environments and use that energy to remain active and build things. His particular interest is in how various groups of humans have captured and used energy over time to build the civilizations we have built throughout history. In addition to energy capture, he looks at the social, cultural, and economical forces that shaped various empir
...more
Richard
The New York Times review (see The Final Conflict , by Orville Schell) of this epic work includes this paragraph in describing the book’s conclusion:
The competition that East and West have been pursuing for so long, Morris warns, is about to be disrupted by some powerful forces. Nuclear proliferation, population growth, global epidemics and climate change are in the process of radically altering old historical patterns. “We are approaching the greatest discontinuity in history,” he says.
After hundreds of pages of description,conclusion:The
...more
Realini
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Why the West Rules for Now by Ian Morris
Fascinating!! 10 out of 10

- Why the West rules - for now?
- There are quite a few answers to this question, but it might be geography that played the most important role

Nevertheless, The Economist has on the cover of the issue of October 12th-19th the photo of the Chinese president with the tittle:

- The Most Powerful Man in the World

In other words, the Rule of the West has already ended and it must be said that for many
...more
Mark Gray
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Another truly remarkable book from Ian Morris, I was concerned that there would be too much cross over from the last one I read however they are easily read without that feeling of repetition. This reminds me of The Rise and Fall if Great Powers but with a much broader scope. I need a break to think before I leap into the next Ian Morris book. Highly recommended
Bou
A comprehensive - somewhat dry - and theoretical explanation of why the West played such an important part in the World's history, and why that will change. If you have a master degree in history, you might find this book suits you, but if you like history as a general interest, this is not a book I'd recommend

I've read Ian Morris's War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots and could have known where I was in for. When Ian Morris writes a book, he doe
...more
Beeb3
Mar 08, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Beeb3 by: Betsy
Shelves: not-chosen
Only the supremely self-confident put forth all-encompassing theories of world history, and Morris is one such daredevil. An archaeologist by academic specialty, he advances a quasi-deterministic construct that is suitable for nonacademics. From a repeatedly enunciated premise that humans by nature are indolent, avaricious, and fearful, Morris holds that such traits, when combined with sociology and geography, explain history right from the beginning, when humanity trudged out of Africa, through ...more
John Doyle
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
World historians generally divide into "short-termers" who believe that great individuals and bungling idiots drive history and "long termers" who attribute relative strengths of societies to genetic differences in populations. Ian Morris argues for a third hypothesis -- that biology and sociology determine the path of social development and that all variation between societies is a function of geography. In other words, for example, "an" industrial revolution was inevitable but "the" industrial ...more
Juneight
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent analysis of historical facts from very early ages until twenty first century (even some predictions of the future) that eventually sums up the background for West dominance in the last two chapters. Some of the details in the book makes it even more attractive for Historians and Anthropologists however Political Scientists will find institutional and state level analyses more interesting. If you have time and interest this is a MUST read book!
Doaa
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm not done with the book yet, I reached the part where he's comparing as he claims our ancestors, the ones that came from the west and the ones from the east. Despite the fact that I don't believe that our ancestors were monkeys, but the differences he mentioned were realistic. I'm still enjoying the book let's see what happens after i'm done. I hope it doesn't shift to bordem.
Liviu
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Better than Guns Germs and steel and that's saying something; a seminal book about the sweep of human history and one that puts a lot of things in perspective; tons of sfnal references from Nightfall to Hari Seldon and many more add extra pleasure for the sff reader

#1 non-fiction book of 2010 for me
David K. Lemons
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the appropriate sequel to Guns, Germs and Steel by Diamond; but greatness sometimes comes in threes. I'm looking forward to a trilogy formed by a brilliant scientist (or not) giving us a new way to look at the world as Ian Morris and Jared Diamond have done.
Ivo Fernandes
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book is a master piece, is the kind of audiobook I ear and get eager to ear more from the author, he start by the assumption that the genetic and ethnic heritage don't have much to do with who rules the world or not, and describe the evolution of the human power and empires based on technology and geography, and he managed to do an incredible history.

In the beginning it was the word, but humans didn't have technology make the word circulate very much, the world had some isolated
...more
Anthony
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
In ‘Why the West Rules – For Now’ Ian Morris has crafted a phenomenal historical reference that provides an enlightened but cautionary perspective of the patterns of human history. As noted by the title, this book explores the distinctions that separate Eastern and Western global power in the present age and how the world came to be the way that it is today. Morris does this remarkably through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary exploration of long-term historical trends that utilizes many ana ...more
Kaye
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m finally done with this book. Lol
Economics and business can sometimes be boring to me. This book reminds me of my business professor in college. Every day (well MWF) he keeps telling us that according to studies, the US is going to be like the UK when it comes to powers. He meant that the US is not going to be the superpower country kinda thing anymore. Economy will not go very bad, but it will be like the UK, sorta quiet and just doing their own thing. He said the BRICS countries (Braz
...more
Kris
I'm not giving this a star rating as I read it for my Comparative Civilizations class. I will say the author's writing had me laughing from time to time!
Alexandru Tudorica
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The shifting opportunities offered by geography within a technological framework summarizes a good chunk of the message of this book.

In the last chapter it is argued why the distinction between East and West loses its meaning and why we live in the most transformative epoch of our entire biological history, which begins with the first forms of life on Earth.

The next half century will test our resolve to better ourselves, conquer our mortality and in the end the Universe,
...more
Pedro Moura
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great combination of history, good writing and insightful perspectives. If mankind's path interests you, this is a must
Michael Quinn
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has immediately become one of my favorite books. I'm a fan of "big history" and, thanks to his background in archaeology and incredible command of narrative history, Ian Morris goes about as big as you can get: starting from the beginning at the dawn of humanity to explain why the West rules. Going so far back is part of Morris's design to examine Western rule with greater rigor than most, first explaining what it means to rule (to have greater social development, that is the ability to get ...more
Sam Diener
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I'm reading this book, I like it a lot. It's fascinating, erudite, and written with a surprisingly light touch.

The further I get away from it, the more critical I get. The reason I'm getting more critical as I consider it is I think he takes geographical determinism too far. Despite endorsing the aphorism, "it's maps, not chaps," Morris is not entirely saying that geography is destiny. He does acknowledge that the meaning of geography changes over time (meaning mostly changes with technolo
...more
Russ
May 23, 2013 added it
The author covered a potentially dry topic in a fashion that kept me reading. Not that I found the question embedded in the title boring, it is just that there were many chances to lose the reader since the author went far back in ancient history, traced the East versus West balance to the present, and then projected into the future--a lot of ground was covered. Many relevant statistics were presented to make the author's case, it was generally done with some drama mixed in, which prevented the ...more
S.j. Sakib
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Maybe there is more to the story than what he presents as explanation for Why the west rules. But this is a good read nonetheless. A good perspective to look into world history from. As someone who doesn't know a lot about world history, I found a lot new to learn. Like chinese history is not one damn dynasty after another after all!

I liked his idea that ideologies and cultures are rather consequences than cause of social development and course of history (Islam probably would be an
...more
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