Why Men?

A Human History of Violence and Inequality

September 2023 9781805260165 424pp
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


How did humans, a species that evolved to be cooperative and egalitarian, develop societies of enforced inequality? Why did our ancestors create patriarchal power and warfare? Did it have to be this way?

Elites have always called hierarchy and violence unavoidable facts of human nature. Evolution, they claim, has caused men to fight, and people—starting with men and women—to have separate, unequal roles. But that is bad science.

Why Men? tells a smarter story of humanity, from early behaviours to contemporary cultures. From bonobo sex and prehistoric childcare to human sacrifice, Joan of Arc, Darwinism and Abu Ghraib, this fascinating, fun and important book reveals that humans adapted to live equally, yet the earliest class societies suppressed this with invented ideas of difference. Ever since, these distortions have caused female, queer and minority suffering. But our deeply human instincts towards equality have endured.

This book is not about what men and women are or do. It’s about the privileges humans claim, how they rationalise them, and how we unpick those ideas about our roots. It will change how you see injustice, violence and even yourself.


‘The evidence Lindisfarne and Neale present is eye-opening and eclectic. … Why Men? is conceived as a tonic against popular grand histories of humanity … whose naturalising of inequality the authors chastise, together with their purportedly related neoliberal politics. … [A] refreshing book.’ — Oren Harman, The Spectator

‘An ambitious attempt to explain the origin of class and women’s oppression.’ — Counterfire

‘A brilliant, funny, unputdownable book for our times, spectacularly puncturing dominant myths about human nature to explain how wealth creates war, why the “dark ages” weren’t so dark, and how we were once much less violent. Wonderful.’ — Danny Dorling, author of Peak Inequality and All That Is Solid

‘Fantastic storytelling and exhaustive research. This book takes us on a journey through civilisations and mythology to uncover the roots of gendered violence and inequality. Like nothing I have read before.’ — Pragya Agarwal, author of Sway(M)otherhood; and Hysterical

‘Whether you’re a hater or a fan of Harari, Diamond and Pinker, this is a must-read: a fantastic historical thriller, and an insightful, expansive look at a great mystery of our time, showing that human oppression and violence are not inevitable.’ — Chip Colwell, author of Stuff: Humanity’s Epic Journey from Naked Ape to Nonstop Shopper

‘A provocative counter-history of that elusive entity, “human nature”. This book gives us much to think about.’ — Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire 

‘Eye-opening. Evolutionary accounts stressing the selfish, violent and male-dominated nature of our species—or our primate relatives—often reflect thinly disguised ideological biases, as Why Men? so clearly shows.’ — Frans de Waal, author of Chimpanzee Politics and Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist


Nancy Lindisfarne is an anthropologist who previously studied and taught at SOAS University of London. Her most recent book, written with Richard Tapper, is Afghan Village Voices.

Jonathan Neale is an historian and professional writer. His most recent book is Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs.

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