The history of the world in one sentence

Just finished reading Why the West Rules – For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris.

This book reminded me of the ancient story of the prince who wanted to know about the history of the world. He called in a young academic and asked him to write the history. Some 30 or 40 years later the scholar returned with 40 volumes. The prince had now become a king and was much too busy to read that much so he asked for a condensed version.

When the scholar returned another 15 years later the king was on his death bed so the scholar told him the history of the world in one sentence”

Man was born, he suffered, he enjoyed and he died.

Morris’s book is a good summary history of the world (already reduced to one volume). Using evidence from a number of disciplines he shows how geography has influenced the rise and decline of civilizations.


He identifies what he calls the five horsemen of the apocalypse – famine, epidemic, uncontrolled migration, state failure and climate change and shows how these have combined to produce disastrous, centuries-long collapses and dark ages.

At the end of his book Morris discusses some of the threats currently facing our own societies but in effect dismisses these with the age-old statement that this time will be different. Perhaps people like Morris have to say things like this and we have to try and believe them so that we won’t get too depressed.

%d bloggers like this: