Why the West Rules—For Now:
The Patterns of the Past, and What they Reveal About the Future
Dr. Ian Morris
Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of History at Stanford University and Fellow of the Stanford Archaeology Center
Dr. Morris answer questions about his book Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, which was 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 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. 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.
Born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, Dr. Morris attended a local comprehensive school. After working in bakeries, plastics plants, and toilet factories plus a spell as a guitarist in a heavy metal band he graduated with First Class Honors in Ancient History and Archaeology from Birmingham University in 1981 and a PhD from Cambridge University in 1985. He held a Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge, from 1985 through 1987, and then moved to the United States. After teaching in the History and Classics departments at the University of Chicago he relocated to the Santa Cruz Mountains in California in 1995, where he still lives with his wife, dogs, and cats. He teaches world history, archaeology, classics at Stanford University, and has served as chair of Stanford's Classics department, Director of its Social Science History Institute and Archaeology Center, and Senior Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. In 2009 he won the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has excavated on archaeological sites in Britain, Greece, and Italy.
He has published ten books and more than eighty articles on archaeology and history. He is the author of The Greeks: History, Culture, and Society (co-authored with Barry Powell; 2nd edition, Prentice-Hall, 2009), The Dynamics of Ancient Empires (co-edited with Walter Scheidel, Oxford University Press, 2009). His eleventh book, Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, was published in the USA by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October 2010 and in the UK by Profile Books in November 2010. His last book The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations was published by Princeton University Press. He is currently writing a new book, called War! What is It Good For? This will tell the story of 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.
Ian Morris's grants and prizes include awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Mellon Foundation, National Geographic Society, and National Endowment for the Humanities, and he has appeared on television on A&E, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and PBS. He started digging on archaeological sites when he was fourteen, and from 2000 through 2007 directed Stanford University's excavations on the acropolis of Monte Polizzo, Sicily, an ancient village occupied between 650 and 300 BCE and again in the Middle Ages between 950 and 1150 CE.
Dr. Morris' colloquium was held in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, March 28, 2013.
This event was cosponsored by the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures and the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.