A Genetic History

By Carles Lalueza-Fox

How genomics reveals deep histories of inequality, going back many thousands of years.





How genomics reveals deep histories of inequality, going back many thousands of years.

Inequality is an urgent global concern, with pundits, politicians, academics, and best-selling books all taking up its causes and consequences. In Inequality, Carles Lalueza-Fox offers an entirely new perspective on the subject, examining the genetic marks left by inequality on humans throughout history. Lalueza-Fox describes genetic studies, made possible by novel DNA sequencing technologies, that reveal layers of inequality in past societies, manifested in patterns of migration, social structures, and funerary practices. Through their DNA, ancient skeletons have much to tell us, yielding anonymous stories of inequality, bias, and suffering.

Lalueza-Fox, a leader in paleogenomics, offers the deep history of inequality. He explores the ancestral shifts associated with migration and describes the gender bias unearthed in these migrations—the brutal sexual asymmetries, for example, between male European explorers and the women of Latin America that are revealed by DNA analysis. He considers social structures, and the evidence that high social standing was inherited—the ancient world was not a meritocracy. He untangles social and genetic factors to consider whether wealth is an advantage in reproduction, showing why we are more likely to be descended from a king than a peasant. And he explores the effects of ancient inequality on the human gene pool. Marshaling a range of evidence, Lalueza-Fox shows that understanding past inequalities is key to understanding present ones.


$27.95 T ISBN: 9780262046787 192 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 22 b&w illus.


  • [A] significant book.



  • “In this important and disturbing book, Lalueza-Fox shows that while our genes may not cause social, economic, and political inequality, they carry the evidence of millennia of human inequality and dominance: men over women, powerful over weak, technologically advanced over traditional.”

    Patrick J. Geary

    Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study

  • “Carles Lalueza-Fox's extraordinary book highlights the most searing insight of the ancient DNA revolution: the fact that our human penchant for exploiting each other is inscribed in each of us biologically. From ancient DNA we obtain a vivid record of those who were less privileged—who did not write the histories but who did leave behind their DNA—and what we learn is how the inequities of our own time are nothing unusual, and instead are a fundamental aspect of our inheritance.”

    David Reich

    Harvard University; author of Who We Are and How We Got Here

  • “Concerns about inequality and its origins have come to the fore around the globe. Off-limits in many quarters is any discussion of genetic determination. In this book Carles Lalueza-Fox brings to life exciting new research on ancient DNA to understand the emergence of inequality in human societies over the millennia. It advances the discussion of the role of genes in inequality beyond the simplistic discussions so common in our time.”

    James Heckman

    2000 Nobel Laureate in Economics; Professor of Economics, University of Chicago