In the last thirty years, there have been fierce debates over how civilizations develop and why the West became so powerful. The Measure of Civilization presents a brand-new way of investigating these questions and provides new tools for assessing the long-term growth of societies. Using a groundbreaking numerical index of social development that compares societies in different times and places, award-winning author Ian Morris sets forth a sweeping examination of Eastern and Western development across 15,000 years since the end of the last ice age. He offers surprising conclusions about when and why the West came to dominate the world and fresh perspectives for thinking about the twenty-first century.
Adapting the United Nations' approach for measuring human development, Morris's index breaks social development into four traits--energy capture per capita, organization, information technology, and war-making capacity--and he uses archaeological, historical, and current government data to quantify patterns. Morris reveals that for 90 percent of the time since the last ice age, the world's most advanced region has been at the western end of Eurasia, but contrary to what many historians once believed, there were roughly 1,200 years--from about 550 to 1750 CE--when an East Asian region was more advanced. Only in the late eighteenth century CE, when northwest Europeans tapped into the energy trapped in fossil fuels, did the West leap ahead.
Resolving some of the biggest debates in global history, The Measure of Civilization puts forth innovative tools for determining past, present, and future economic and social trends.
Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and professor of history at Stanford University. His most recent book is the award-winning Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) which has been translated into eleven languages.
"Stanford University classicist and historian Morris follows up Why the West Rules--for Now with a sophisticated volume designed to add quantitative muscle to his earlier arguments. A big-history theorist working in a vein similar to Niall Ferguson or Jared Diamond, Morris measures societies' historical 'abilities to get things done in the world.' With an impressive data array, he calibrates energy resources, social organization, war-making capacity, and information technology over time to compare the East and West. In the 21st century, he foresees a shift in global power and wealth from West to East, much as it shifted from East to West in the 19th. . . . The ingenuity and style of his arguments will make economists and historians stand up and take notice."--Publishers Weekly
"Buttressed with numerous graphs and engagingly written, this work provides much food for thought . . ."--Choice
Praise for Ian Morris: "Morris is the world's most talented ancient historian, a man as much at home with state-of-the-art archaeology as with the classics as they used to be studied."--Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs
Praise for Ian Morris: "Morris is a lucid thinker and a fine writer . . . possessed of a welcome sense of humor that helps him guide us through this grand game of history as if he were an erudite sportscaster."--Orville Schell, New York Times Book Review
"The Measure of Civilization is a terrific book--it will inform, stimulate, and challenge you. Beautifully summarizing and quantifying the major developments in energy capture, social organization, war technology, and categorization, storage, and communication of information over the last sixteen millennia, this book shows how far we have come and how this journey has been a cumulative process."--Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xiii
1 Introduction: Quantifying Social Development 1
2 Methods and Assumptions 25
3 Energy Capture 53
4 Social Organization 144
5 War-Making Capacity 173
6 Information Technology 218
7 Discussion: The Limits and Potential of Measuring Development 238
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