Why did Europeans and North Americans come to dominate the modern world, overtaking peoples in places like China and India? The German sociologist Max Weber put it down to Protestant ethics and asceticism.
Harvard academic Joseph Henrich has a different big idea: not marrying your cousins.
Beginning around 600AD the Roman church kicked off a millennia-long campaign to promote good Christian marriages, banning unions not merely between first cousins but distant relatives too.
The result transformed the organisation and inner psychology of once-tribal European societies, giving birth in Henrich’s telling to the “weirdest people in the world” — where “WEIRD” stands for “Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic”.
FT 28 december 2020