Ian Morris is Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and a Fellow of the Archaeology Center at Stanford University. He has published fourteen books, many of them focusing on the big patterns in world history and possible future trends, and he has directed archaeological excavations in Greece and Italy. His books have been translated into fifteen languages, and his 2010 work Why the West Rules—For Now won literary awards in the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and China as well as being named as a book of the year by the New York Times, The Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, Nature, and the London Evening Standard. Princeton University Press published his latest book, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, in April 2015.
Morris grew up in Britain and studied at Birmingham and Cambridge Universities. He moved to the University of Chicago in 1987, and on to Stanford University in 1995. He directed Stanford’s archaeological excavations at Monte Polizzo in Sicily between 2000 and 2007 and has served as Senior Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences, Chair of the Classics department, Director of the Archaeology Center, and Director of the Social Science History Institute.
Outside Stanford, Morris is a contributing editor at the strategic consulting firm Stratfor and has served as a visiting professor at the University of Zürich’s Business School, He has also delivered the Tanner Lectures in Human Values at Princeton University and a Darwin Lecture at Cambridge University, and in 2015/16 will deliver the Philippe Roman Lectures in International Relations and History at the London School of Economics. He has advised the US National Intelligence Council, the Special Autonomous Regional Government of Hong Kong, the Henry Jackson Committee of the British Parliament, and the President of the Dominican Republic. His academic honors include an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fellowship in the British Academy, a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and two honorary doctorates.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor, Classics

Administrative Appointments

  • Director, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University (2003 - 2006)
  • Acting Director, Social Science History Institute, Stanford University (2001 - 2002)
  • Director, Stanford Excavations at Monte Polizzo, Sicily, Stanford University and Soprintendenza i beni culturali, Trapani (2000 - 2007)
  • Co-Director, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford University (2000 - 2002)
  • Senior Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University (1998 - 2000)
  • Chair, Department of Classics, Stanford University (1996 - 1998)

Honors & Awards

  • Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, Carnegie Foundation (2015)
  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries (2014)
  • Honorary Doctorate, Birmingham University (2014)
  • Most Powerful Author Award, Citic Books, Beijing (2014)
  • Campbell National Fellowship, Hoover Institution (2013-14)
  • Honorary doctorate, DePauw University (2013)
  • Corresponding Fellow, British Academy (2012)
  • Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching, Stanford University (2011)
  • International Nonfiction Bestseller Award, Sharjah Book Festival, UAE (2011)
  • PEN USA Literary Nonfiction Award, PEN USA (2011)
  • getAbstract Business Book Award, getAbstract (2011)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, Guggenheim Foundation (2002-03)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities (2002-03)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Contributing Editor, Stratfor (2015 - Present)
  • Editorial Board, Cambridge Archaeological Journal (2002 - 2010)
  • Editorial Board, American Journal of Archaeology (2000 - 2005)
  • Board of Directors, American Philological Association (1993 - 1996)
  • Editorial Board, Classical Philology (1989 - 1995)
  • Member, Archaeological Institute of America (1988 - Present)

Professional Education

  • PhD, Cambridge University, Classical archaeology (1986)
  • BA, Birmingham University, Ancient History and Archaeology (1981)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

I combine evidence from archaeology, anthropology, and history with methods drawn from the social sciences and evolutionary theory to try to identify the big trends that have shaped society across the last 100,000 years, and to analyze how those trends might play out in the future. I concentrate particularly on biology and geography as driving forces, and since 2010 have written books analyzing east-west relations, quantitative measures of social development, war and violence, and human values. I am currently working on a book examining the ancient world at the global scale. Future projects I am considering include the comparative study of dark ages, geostrategy since the Ice Age, the role of chance and the individual in history, and the long-term history of gender and the family.

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Absent Archimedes - what? INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS Morris, I. 2022; 47 (3-4): 440-448
  • The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (Book Review) AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGY Book Review Authored by: Morris, I. 2022; 126 (3): E65-E75

    View details for DOI 10.1086/720603

    View details for Web of Science ID 000840333000001

  • Evolutionary history. Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior Morris, I. 2022; 20 (1): 14747049211068279


    Few academic historians take an evolutionary perspective on the past, but this outcome was not inevitable. Leading eighteenth-century intellectuals often took evolutionary perspectives, but particularists largely discredited them in and after the 1780s. By the time Spencer and Darwin revived evolutionism in the 1850s, distinctive historical questions and methods were very well-established. Public intellectuals regularly called for Darwinian history, but almost no academics saw much to gain in it. Most twentieth-century social scientists became generalizers but not evolutionists, while most historians not only refused to engage in generalization of any kind but also criticized divisions of labor in which evolutionists would test theories against data generated by historians. Possibilities remain open for a properly evolutionary history, in which scholars trained as historians but asking evolutionary questions would work alongside those trained as evolutionists but analyzing historical data, but currently, this field's prospects depend too much on individual personalities and even luck.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/14747049211068279

    View details for PubMedID 35317635

  • What is Ancient History? DAEDALUS Morris, I., Scheidel, W. 2016; 145 (2): 113-121
  • Increased Affluence Explains the Emergence of Ascetic Wisdoms and Moralizing Religions CURRENT BIOLOGY Baumard, N., Hyafil, A., Morris, I., Boyer, P. 2015; 25 (1): 10-15


    Between roughly 500 BCE and 300 BCE, three distinct regions, the Yangtze and Yellow River Valleys, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Ganges Valley, saw the emergence of highly similar religious traditions with an unprecedented emphasis on self-discipline and asceticism and with "otherworldly," often moralizing, doctrines, including Buddhism, Jainism, Brahmanism, Daoism, Second Temple Judaism, and Stoicism, with later offshoots, such as Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam. This cultural convergence, often called the "Axial Age," presents a puzzle: why did this emerge at the same time as distinct moralizing religions, with highly similar features in different civilizations? The puzzle may be solved by quantitative historical evidence that demonstrates an exceptional uptake in energy capture (a proxy for general prosperity) just before the Axial Age in these three regions.Statistical modeling confirms that economic development, not political complexity or population size, accounts for the timing of the Axial Age.We discussed several possible causal pathways, including the development of literacy and urban life, and put forward the idea, inspired by life history theory, that absolute affluence would have impacted human motivation and reward systems, nudging people away from short-term strategies (resource acquisition and coercive interactions) and promoting long-term strategies (self-control techniques and cooperative interactions).

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2014.10.063

    View details for Web of Science ID 000347409900021

    View details for PubMedID 25496963

  • Archaeology as a social science PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Smith, M. E., Feinman, G. M., Drennan, R. D., Earle, T., Morris, I. 2012; 109 (20): 7617-7621


    Because of advances in methods and theory, archaeology now addresses issues central to debates in the social sciences in a far more sophisticated manner than ever before. Coupled with methodological innovations, multiscalar archaeological studies around the world have produced a wealth of new data that provide a unique perspective on long-term changes in human societies, as they document variation in human behavior and institutions before the modern era. We illustrate these points with three examples: changes in human settlements, the roles of markets and states in deep history, and changes in standards of living. Alternative pathways toward complexity suggest how common processes may operate under contrasting ecologies, populations, and economic integration.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1201714109

    View details for Web of Science ID 000304369800021

    View details for PubMedID 22547811

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3356624

  • Why western science conquered the world NEW SCIENTIST Morris, I. 2010; 208 (2784): 32-34
  • Negotiated peripherality in Iron Age Greece: Accepting and resisting the East 94th Annual Meeting of the American-Anthropological-Association (AAA) Morris, I. ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD PUBL INC. 1999: 63–84
  • Meaning and the Maros CAMBRIDGE ARCHAEOLOGICAL JOURNAL Morris, I. 1998; 8 (1): 105-106
  • The art of citizenship Symposium on New Light on a Dark Age - Exploring the Culture of Geometric Greece Morris, I. UNIV MISSOURI PRESS. 1997: 9–43