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Why the West Rules—For Now: The Silk Road, the Atlantic Economy, and the Pacific Century

February 16, 2012 - 7:30pm
Building 380 - Room 380D


Ian Morris Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics, Stanford University

The world's first complex societies emerged in what we now call the Middle East, and for thousands of years after the end of the last ice the western part of Eurasia was the global center of wealth and power. Then, for roughly 1,200 years between 550 and 1750 AD, China was the world's economic and cultural powerhouse, only to be overtaken by Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this talk I examine the role of the Silk Road in the shift of wealth and power from the western to the eastern end of Eurasia in the 1st millennium AD, how central Asia and the Atlantic Ocean interacted in the rise of the industrial West, and the reasons why a Pacific economy has emerged as a rival to the Atlantic economy in the last 50 years. I emphasize the importance of geography rather than culture in explaining the patterns of world history, and argue that once we understand these patterns, we can see where they might take us in the next 50 years.

Free and open to the public.

Event Sponsor: 
Silk Road Foundation and the Center for East Asian Studies
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