Western civilization's rise to global dominance is the single
most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuries.
All over the world, more and more people study at Western-style
universities, work for Western-style companies, vote for
Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western
clothes, and play Western sports. Yet six hundred years ago the
petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed like miserable backwaters,
ravaged by incessant war and pestilence. It was Ming China or
Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did
the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western
power now passed?
In Civilization: The West and the Rest, acclaimed
historian Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth
century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest
lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine,
consumerism, and the work ethic. These were the 'killer
applications' that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest;
opening global trade routes, exploiting new scientific knowledge,
evolving representative government, more than doubling life
expectancy, unleashing the industrial revolution, and hugely
increasing human productivity. Civilization shows exactly
how a dozen Western empires came to control three-fifths of mankind
and four-fifths of the world economy.
Yet now, Ferguson argues, the days of Western predominance are
numbered because the Rest have finally downloaded the six killer
apps the West once monopolized - while the West has literally lost
faith in itself.
Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside the clashes of
civilizations, Civilization recasts world history with
verve and wit. Boldly argued but also teeming with memorable
characters, this is Ferguson at his very best.