Civilization: The West And The Rest

Hardcover | November 1, 2011

byNiall Ferguson

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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.

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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...

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 Univ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:432 pages, 9.31 × 6.33 × 1.42 inPublished:November 1, 2011Publisher:Penguin Press (HC)Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1594203059

ISBN - 13:9781594203053

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Customer Reviews of Civilization: The West And The Rest

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A well researched, well written tour de force 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 computer game). There are some minor flaws - the chapter on medicine is mostly about subjects other than medicine; the slave trade to the Americas listed as beginning in 1450, almost half a century before Columbus’ voyage to the New World; and Ferguson seems curiously unscientific in his footnote musing that genetics may explain Jews’ disproportionate success in arts, science and commerce - but on the whole this is an excellent, densely packed historical tour. For those familiar with Ferguson’s other works, Civilization falls somewhere between his story filled and highly readable “Ascent of Money” and his more academic “The Pity of War”. A broad, detailed canvas with the most interesting of stories laying the foundation for us to speculate about the future of western civilization and the rise of China. Much better and more thought provoking than other, often economics oriented, books heralding the decline of the West. Civilization the television series will surely cross the Atlantic to North American viewers, just as “The Ascent of Money” did, but read the book for its rich detail. Buy it, read it, and reflect on the future of both the West and the Rest.
Date published: 2012-01-06

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Editorial Reviews

“[Ferguson] uses his powerful narrative talents in these pages to give the reader a highly tactile sense of history. … The author [has a] knack for making long-ago events as vivid and visceral as the evening news, for weaving anecdotes and small telling details together with a wide-angled retrospective vision.”—New York Times“A dazzling history of Western ideas.”—The Economist“Mr. Ferguson tells his story with characteristic verve and an eye for the felicitous phrase.”—Wall Street Journal“[W]ritten with vitality and verve… a tour de force.”—Boston Globe“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)