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Civilization: The West and the Rest. Niall Ferguson Hardcover – Jan 3 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (Jan. 3 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142734
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 662 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #591,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ian Robertson TOP 100 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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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: Kindle Edition
This is the worst book that I had come across in the last 6 months. (I read about 10 books in the last 6 months). I tried to, at least finish it, but could not hold my patience until the end of chapter 4, Medicine, but to give up reading any further. My expectation is that the author will try to articulate the difference between the West and the Rest in the 6 parameters enumerated in the Introduction. Actually I tend to agree with the author that difference between the West and the Rest in the 6 listed points. The author will argue how and why the West protects property right, or what the West had done to foster the development of science and medicine, against the opposite of the Rest, etc. I do not anticipate however that the author will provide why property right and/or advancement in science and medicine could help advance the "civilization" and/or economic development. To my disappointment, the author did not depict how the West and the Rest do differently in these parameters (at least in the first four chapters, as I just could not continue reading the balance of the book). It is disappointing that the author only pull some historical facts here and there. I am also puzzled why the author spend some much pages on the Spanish war in South America and American revolution in the chapter of Property; German medical exploration on human races in the chapter of Medicine. To me, these are totally irrelevant to the theme and title of the book.
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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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