For fans of Sapiens and The Dawn of Everything, a groundbreaking exploration of gendered oppression—its origins, its histories, our attempts to understand it, and our efforts to combat it

Product Code: 9334
ISBN: 9780807093337
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 256
Published Date: 02/27/2024
Availability:In stock
Price: $17.95

The March 2024 Justice and Spirit: Unitarian Universalist Book Club selection.

For centuries, societies have treated male domination as natural to the human species. But how would our understanding of gender inequality—our imagined past and contested present— look if we didn’t assume that men have always ruled over women? If we saw inequality as something more fragile that has had to be constantly remade and reasserted?

In this bold and radical book, award-winning science journalist Angela Saini explores the roots of what we call patriarchy, uncovering a complex history of how it first became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present. She travels to the world’s earliest known human settlements, analyzes the latest research findings in science and archaeology, and traces cultural and political histories from the Americas to Asia, finding that:

From around 7,000 years ago there are signs that a small number of powerful men were having more children than other men

From 5,000 years ago, as the earliest states began to expand, gendered codes appeared in parts of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to serve the interests of powerful elites – but in slow, piecemeal ways, and always resisted

In societies where women left their own families to live with their husbands, marriage customs came to be informed by the widespread practice of captive-taking and slavery, eventually shaping laws that alienated women from systems of support and denied them equal rights

There was enormous variation in gender and power in many societies for thousands of years, but colonialism and empire dramatically changed ways of life across Asia, Africa and the Americas, spreading rigidly patriarchal customs and undermining how people organized their families and work.

In the 19th century and 20th centuries, philosophers, historians, anthropologists, and feminists began to actively question what patriarchy meant as part of the attempt to understand the origins of inequality. In our own time, despitethe pushback against sexism, abuse, and discrimination, even revolutionary efforts to bring about equality have often ended in failure and backlash. But The Patriarchs is a profoundly hopeful book—one that reveals a multiplicity to human arrangements that undercuts the old grand narratives and exposes male supremacy as no more (and no less) than an ever-shifting element in systems of control.

Bookmark and Share

Time Line
Map of Matriliny


CHAPTER 1: Domination
CHAPTER 2: Exception
CHAPTER 3: Genesis
CHAPTER 4: Destruction
CHAPTER 5: Restriction
CHAPTER 6: Alienation
CHAPTER 7: Revolution
CHAPTER 8: Transformation


“Angela Saini is one of today’s most incisive and important writers about humanity’s troubling turns, twists, and biases. The Patriarchs, a book that is at turns myth-busting, startling, enraging, surprisingly hopeful, and addictively readable, wholly underlines that point. Don’t miss it.” —Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection

“In this disarmingly accessible book, Angela Saini takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour through the nature, history, and present-day manifestations of patriarchy. The prose is sparkling, the information is richly textured, and the insights are plentiful. The Patriarchs is essential reading for anyone interested in how the legacy of the past continues to shape the relations between women and men, and how women have struggled to throw off its yoke.” —David Livingstone Smith, author of Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization

“Saini deftly interweaves interviews with experts in genetics, archaeology, history, sociology, and literature, as well as social and legal activists, with nuanced interpretations of key moments in the history of women to understand how oppression becomes normalized and patriarchy almost inevitable. Filled with important stories and the data underlying them, The Patriarchs helps us grapple with the big questions about the deep histories and present battles over power, gender relations, and women’s experiences in a world that often seems bent on keeping us down.” —Rebecca Futo Kennedy, chair of Classical Studies, Denison University

“Gripping and beautifully written, Saini’s The Patriarchs is mind-bending. I learned so much about the past and present of patriarchy and notable, diverse matrilineal societies that prove there is nothing inevitable about sexism, domination, or patriarchy. The Patriarchs compels us to look beyond what is and what was, and imagine what could be.” —Jennifer Shahade, author of Chess Queens

“In a world sewn together by the myth of permanence, The Patriarchs offers a portal to possibility: the way things are is not necessarily how they could have been. Male supremacy was never inevitable; it was a political choice. Once again, Angela Saini has the receipts. She is scientific journalism at its best—equally engaging and enraging in her forensic denaturalization of power.” —Alok Vaid-Menon, author of Beyond the Gender Binary

Be the first to submit a review on this product!
Review and Rate this Item

You might also be interested in: