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Civilization: The West and the Rest Paperback – Oct 30 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (Oct. 30 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143122061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143122067
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“[W]ritten with vitality and verve… a tour de force.” — BOSTON GLOBE

"A dazzling history of Western ideas." — THE ECONOMIST

 “This is sharp. It feels urgent. Ferguson, with a properly financially literate mind, twists his knife with great literary brio…Ferguson ends by suggesting the biggest threat is not China but ourselves – our cowardice, drawn from ignorance, even stupidity, about our past. He is right. But as he shows himself, that can be fixed.” — THE FINANCIAL TIMES

“The author boldly takes on 600 years of world events… so that the history lesson remains fresh and compelling… A richly informed, accessible history lesson.”

KIRKUS (starred)

About the Author

NIALL FERGUSON is one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, and High Financier. He also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world.


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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ian Robertson TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 5 2012
Format: Hardcover
Prolific Oxford, Harvard and Stanford professor Niall Ferguson continues his excellent string of publications with a well researched and erudite tour of the past 500 years of western civilization. The book is very, very detailed (over 700 end notes, plus a 30 page bibliography), but extremely readable. Its many facts are both interesting and woven together logically and chronologically to support a central thesis - that the West has predominated because it developed six killer apps: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic.

Not just another book trumpeting the West's superiority, Ferguson highlights the West's good luck as well as it's superior political and economic structure. He notes the West's willingness to have its killer apps downloaded by other countries, which will mean more wealth for all but also a change in the balance of power.

Like all history books, the content is filtered through the author's particular lens - in this case a right wing, British Empire loving polymath and wit - but Ferguson is thorough in supporting his thesis, confronting other historians' theories and mistakes head-on, and documenting his own views with ample political, economic and cultural references and a fair amount of humour. The prolific references range from esoteric to pop-cultural (e.g. Sid Meier's Civilization V computer game).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RondoReader on March 22 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As with the `Ascent of Money' and previous books by Dr. Ferguson, Civilization was conceived from the start as both a television series and a book. One senses exactly where the adverts will be inserted and cringes slightly at the theatrical flair (e.g. "born again" morphed into "porn again"). The upside is the story moves along at a good clip without getting bogged down in excessive details or alternate interpretations. The downside is frequently being left hungry for greater substantiation. For example, at one point Dr. Ferguson acknowledges some historians attribute Great Britain's rise to global supremacy to an early start with the industrial revolution but maintains the real reason was the systems developed to amass and invest capital. While that seems plausible it would be more convincing with some evidence and discussion to back up the statement.

The stated purpose for Dr. Ferguson's book is revealing the "six killer apps" that account for Western dominance but he strays, not infrequently, to a more general look at Western history. Case in point: while he describes medicine as "the West's most remarkable killer application" the chapter devoted to medicine spends more time examining the French revolution and subsequent imperialism than on the supposed subject of the chapter.

One of the more interesting revelations and one that Dr. Ferguson examines in greater detail is the importance of the Protestant Ethic to the West's success and the surprising widespread adoption of Christianity in Asia, particularly China. For me, this section alone was worth the price of admission.

Despite the minor shortcomings the book is attention-grabbing, readable and timely.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Sullivan TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 23 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ferguson sets out to explain how and why, Western Civilization became the world`s dominate force. Ferguson also outlines, why other areas of the globe remained an economic backwater. Ferguson boils down the last five hundred years of western success, to a list of six essential components.

Here is the list
1)Competition
2)Science
3)Property
4)Medicine
5)Consumption
6)Work

Each ingredient has its own chapter. Ferguson then takes the reader through various historical lessons. These historic episodes help the reader understand, how these listed factors applied to western success. Some of the history will be very familiar to reader. I am also willing to bet, most readers will also discover a few new areas of history, that Ferguson uncovers.

The conclusion of the book is all about how other countries, have started to apply western methods of success. Will the rise of strong Asian economies eclipse the growth of the west?

This book should really be part one of a series. Part two could be all about how current western societies, have moved away from the six factors of economic prosperity.

One caution I may make to a prospective reader of this book. The over all theme is a somewhat Libertarian message. This will be the deciding factor, in your potential enjoyment of the book.
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Format: Paperback
This was the second book I have read by Niall Fergusson, a prominent economic historian. The first book of his that I read a couple of years ago was The Ascent of Money. While it was quite dense, I thought it was a useful and informative book that focussed on what the title would have you believe it was about. It was certainly good enough for me to take a second crack at Fergusson, but unfortunately, Civilization is just not up to snuff. The book itself actually had very little to do with "civilization". He probably should have just gone with his subtitle - The West and Rest. His book distills Civilization (really affluence, economic progress or economic power) down to six specific areas. Or, as he puts it, six killer apps. Although I would say there is much more to do with civilization than these six areas he focusses on (competition, science, property, medicine, consumption and work), I won't fault him for underscoring what HE believes were the six drivers that brought the West to the dominant position it enjoys today. My main problem with this book is that after laying out these six killer apps, he meanders through each chapter without really focussing on any of these six subject areas. For example, in the chapter on property, I was really expecting a much more focussed and sophisticated argument in support of how property rules and rights have been instrumental to the West's success. I was sort of expecting an argument along the lines of what you found in De Soto's "The Mystery of Capital". But there was little effort made to link his argument back to the title of the chapter, let alone how it contributed to civilization. There was more discussion of slavery (yes, seen as a form of property at the time) than anything to do with property.Read more ›
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