Conquests and Cultures: An International History

Conquests and Cultures: An International History

by Thomas Sowell

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Focusing on four major cultural areas, this book attempts to understand the role of cultural differences within nations and between nations in shaping the economic and social fates of peoples and of whole civilizations.See more details below


Focusing on four major cultural areas, this book attempts to understand the role of cultural differences within nations and between nations in shaping the economic and social fates of peoples and of whole civilizations.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sowell presents this as the final volume in a trilogy that includes Race and Culture (1994) and Migration and Culture (1996). Like its predecessors, the book incorporates two principal themes: that racial, ethnic and national groups have their own particular cultures, and that those cultures are mutable. Sowell offers four case studiesthe British, the Africans, the Slavs and the American Indiansin evidence for his argument that the antecedents, processes and consequences of conquest generate broad-spectrum interactions and responses. Cultures in contact with each other usually influence each other even if the matrix is based on domination/submission, he explains. Brutal conquests can lead to the spread of advanced skills. Cultural borrowing is accompanied by genetic diffusion, and both make a mockery of biological racism and behavioral stasis. The key distinction among human communities is, for Sowell, "human capital"the spectrum of individual and collective learned behaviors that produce distinctive patterns of skills and attitudes. The positive form of this capital is based on flexibilityreceptivity to cultural transfers and willingness to apply those transfers in different contexts. Sowell, an economist by training and a conservative by conviction, emphasizes the wealth-creating aspects of human capital and argues for the centrality of achievement to developing group self-esteem. He references his arguments to a wide range of sources from a broad spectrum of disciplines. Academic specialists are likely to join critics of Sowell's emphasis on cultural malleability in accusing him of using the tools of scholarship to support his preconceptions. Sowell's conclusion that the course of history is determined by what peoples do with their opportunities is nevertheless an emotionally and intellectually compelling challenge to determinism in all its variant forms, from Marxism to multiculturalism.
Library Journal
Sowell, a scholar-in-residence at the Hoover Institution and author of several books in the social sciences, examines ways in which military victories throughout history have caused both conquerors and the conquered to change dramatically. The Roman and British Empires, several African tribes, Eastern European Slavs, and Western Hemisphere Indians are presented as civilizations that grew economically and culturally, or declined precipitously, as they clashed with foreign armies. Sowell's scholarship is evident as he examines the interplay of religion, language, education, technology, and other factors in the development of nations. An example is his discussion of the Slavic people as both victors and losers against Celts, Germans, Turks, and others. The third in a trilogy that includes Race and Culture (LJ 7/94) and Migrations and Cultures (LJ 3/1/96), this book bears comparison to Fernand Braudel's A History of Civilization (LJ 10/1/93). Its readable style and impressive scope make it suitable for all libraries.
Culminates a trilogy by exploring the role of cultural differences within nations and between nations, today and over centuries of history, in shaping the economic and social fates of peoples and whole civilizations. Based on the observation that the history of civilizations cannot be understood without examining the cultural impact of conquest. Looks at the British, the Africans, the Slavs, and the Western Hemisphere Indians.

Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Oregon

Kirkus Reviews
Hoover Institution scholar-in-residence Sowell concludes a trilogy that began with Race and Culture (1994) and Migrations and Cultures (1996) by consideringþin sometimes stimulating, sometimes muddled fashion; the momentous consequences of long-term military occupation on subject peoples. The history of conquests, Sowell writes, applies not just to the past; itþs also "about how we came to be where we are economically, intellectually, and morally." Beginning with the British (who were subjugated by the Romans, only to create their own empire more than a millennium later), Sowell goes on to analyze the complex interaction between conquering and subject peoples in the case of the Africans, the Slavs of eastern Europe, and Western Hemisphere Indians. Sowell acutely details ways that geography can spur or stall industry (e.g., the lack of mineral deposits and navigable waterways retarded commerce in the Balkans while western Europe began to pull ahead). Even more important than geographic assets, however, is what Sowell calls "human capital" the combination of skills, experience, and orientation. The Scots, for instance, following their absorption into England, achieved a renaissance of science and medicine. Sowell aims to be hard-headed, challenging notions that all cultures are equally worthy. Often, however, his conclusions are simplistic. He criticizes postcolonial African leaders, for instance, for studying "soft" subjects rather than "hard" ones such as math, science, engineering, and medicine, but he doesnþt say that in the West, business growth has frequently been created by marketers who have studied English, psychology, law, and even politics.Moreover, except in the case of the Soviet Union, many of his sources are more than a decade old. This lack of recent specialized studies leads to omissions that call into question some of his conclusions (e.g., while noting that Ireland's economy sputtered into the late 1980s, he doesn't mention that country's more recent boom). Fascinating analysis vitiated, over the course of this trilogy, by repetition, insulting national comparisons, and superficial history.

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Basic Books
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