Why the West Rules—For Now  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future is a history book by a British historian Ian Morris, published in 2010.

Content

The book compares East and West across the last 15,000 years, arguing that physical geography rather than culture, religion, politics, genetics, or great men explains Western domination of the globe. Morris' Social Development Index considers the amount of energy a civilization can usefully capture, its ability to organize (measured by the size of its largest cities), war-making capability (weapons, troop strength, logistics), and information technology (speed and reach of writing, printing, telecommunication, etc.).

The evidence and statistical methods used in this book are explained in more detail in Social Development, a free eBook, and by the published volume, The Measure of Civilization.

Morris argues that:

  • When agriculture was first invented, areas with reliable rainfall benefited most.
  • Irrigation benefited drier areas such as Egypt and the Fertile Crescent.
  • Plants and animals more easily domesticated gave certain areas an early advantage, especially the Fertile Crescent and China. (See cradle of civilization.) Development of Africa and the Americas started on the same path, but it was delayed by thousands of years.
  • With the development of ships in Eurasia, rivers became trade routes. Europe and empires in Greece and Rome benefited from the Mediterranean, compared to Chinese empires (who later built the Grand Canal for similar purposes).
  • Raids from the Eurasian Steppe brought diseases that caused epidemics in settled populations.
  • The Social Development Index shows the West leading until the 6th century, China leading until the 18th century, and the West leading again in the modern era.
  • After the development of ocean-going ships, the significantly greater size of the Pacific Ocean made trans-Atlantic exploration and trade more feasible and profitable for Europe than trans-Pacific exploration and trade for East Asia. Though the mariner's compass was invented in China in the 11th century, Chinese exploration was less successful than the European Age of Discovery and subsequent colonization.
  • Eurasian diseases to which people in the Americas had no immunity were a byproduct of Eurasian development that devastated Native Americans after contact, in addition to superior European weapons.
  • Globalization and advances in information technology are leveling differences between civilizational areas.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Why the West Rules—For Now" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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