Civilization: The West and the Rest. Niall Ferguson Hardcover – Jan 3 2011
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This title has been nominated for "Daily Telegraph" Books of the Year. If in the year 1411 you had been able to circumnavigate the globe, you would have been most impressed by the dazzling civilizations of the Orient. The Forbidden City was under construction in Ming Beijing; in the Near East, the Ottomans were closing in on Constantinople. By contrast, England would have struck you as a miserable backwater ravaged by plague, bad sanitation and incessant war. The other quarrelsome kingdoms of Western Europe - Aragon, Castile, France, Portugal and Scotland - would have seemed little better. As for fifteenth-century North America, it was an anarchic wilderness compared with the realms of the Aztecs and Incas. The idea that the West would come to dominate the Rest for most of the next half millennium would have struck you as wildly fanciful. And yet it happened. What was it about the civilization of Western Europe that allowed it to trump the outwardly superior empires of the Orient? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues, was that the West developed six "killer applications" that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If so, Ferguson warns, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy. "Civilization" takes readers on their own extraordinary journey around the world - from the Grand Canal at Nanjing to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; from Machu Picchu in the Andes to Shark Island, Namibia; and, from the proud towers of Prague to the secret churches of Wenzhou. It is the story of sailboats, missiles, land deeds, vaccines, blue jeans and Chinese Bibles. It is the defining narrative of modern world history.
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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Here is the list
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Ferguson presents a fairly good argument, but he wanders off on tangents sometimes and confuses the readerPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Santos
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). Read morePublished 21 months ago by Amos Tin
great historical reading. He really lays down the reasons for why the West is dominant rather than the East. Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2014 by Byron Dueck
Just wish I could remember the details! I heard Ferguson interviewed on CBC and was impressed with his knowledge, but one can't help wondering how long the current primary players... Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2014 by Anne Stewart
Great, well written book- Very interesting and easy to understand. Niall Ferguson is well versed in this topic- a real expertPublished on July 12 2013 by LarryH
Civilization by Neil Fergson was an excellent read for an overview of the past 500 years.
Only problem I had with the book was that I almost had the feeling he thinks Jews... Read more
A bit of a warning in this book-- things are changing and the west is in a confidence and world view crisis. We are taking an axe to our roots.Published on March 12 2013 by Kevin