The Cultures of the West, Volume One: To 1750 / Edition 1

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The Cultures of the West: A History focuses on the ways in which the major ideas and passions of Western culture developed, internally, and how they interacted with the broader world-for good and for ill. The development of such key ideas as religion, science, and philosophy form the central narrative of this book.

The Cultures of the West stands apart from other textbooks in a variety of ways, the first being thematic unity. What did people think and believe, throughout our history, about human nature, the right way to live, God, the best forms of government, or the meaning of human life? Rather than maintaining a single interpretive stance, author Clifford R. Backman relies upon a consistent set of questions: What did people think and feel throughout the centuries about politics, science, religion, and sex? How did they come to their positions regarding the right way to live? Backman's many years of experience in the classroom have informed his approach-students respond to engaging questions more than they are inspired by facts.


* Single author voice: clearly and compellingly written by an experienced teacher and scholar who knows how to emphasize intriguing and eye-opening elements of Western Civilization
* A book with a point of view: even if disagreed with, the text will at engage students' minds
* Exceptional coverage of cultural history, especially the history of what people thought and felt throughout the history of the West
* "Greater West" approach that integrates in sustained fashion coverage of Islam and the Middle East
* Superior coverage of Jewish history and the history of women
* Extensive primary source excerpts integrated directly into the text, many of which have been translated by the author
* Footnotes featuring surprising, engaging information usually neglected in other texts

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195388909
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/27/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 551
  • Sales rank: 115,862
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Clifford R. Backman is Professor of History at Boston University. He is the author of The Worlds of Medieval Europe, Second Edition (OUP, 2008), and The Decline and Fall of Medieval Sicily: Politics, Religion, and Economy in the Reign of Frederick III, 1296-1337 (1995).

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Table of Contents

1. Water and Soil, Stone and Metal, 10,000 BCE - 2100 BCE

The Tigris and the Euphrates
Early Sumer: Kings and Warriors, Priests and Scribes
The Idea of Empire
Mesopotamian Life: Cities and Slaves, Letters and Numbers
Religion and Myth: The Great Above and Great Below
Ancient Egypt
Social Strata in Egypt
The Kingdom of the Dead

2. Law-Givers, Evil Emperors, and Dangerous Gods, 2100 BCE - 486 BCE

Old Babylon
Middle Kingdom Egypt
The New Kingdom Empire
The Indo-European Assault
The Age of Iron Begins, ca. 1200 BCE
Persia and the Religion of Fire

3. The Chosen People, 1200 BCE - 538 BCE

A Great Nation
The Bible and History
The Land of Canaan
Dreams of a Golden Age
Women and the Law
Prophets and Prophecy
Priests and Rabbis
A Genius for Reinvention

4. Greeks and Persians, 2000 BCE - 479 BCE

From Chaos to Tragedy
The Mycenaean World: Heroes and Kings
The End of an Age and Mythic Ancestors
Colonists, Hoplites, and Tyrants
A Cult of Masculinity
Sparta: The Militarization of the Citizenry
Miletus: A Merchant Oligarchy and the First Philosophers
Athenian democracy
The Persian Wars

5. Hellenism and Second Temple Judaism, 499 BCE - 192 BCE

The Classical Age
Women, Children, and Slaves
The Polis; Ritual and Restraint
Civilized Pursuits: Epic and Lyric Poetry
The Birth of Tragedy
The Peloponnesian Disaster
Medicine as Natural Law: Hippocrates
Mathematical Ordering and Sophistry
Socrates and the Meaningful Life
Plato and Ideal Forms
Aristotle and the Pursuit of Happiness
Alexander the Great
A Mongrel but Magnificent World
Second Temple Jews and Judaism
The Maccabaean Revolt

6. The Empire of the Sea: Rome, 753 BCE - 180 CE

Links to a Heroic Age
Republic, Property, and Family
The Republic of Virtue
Size Matters
Can the Republic Be Saved?
The Golden Age: The Augustan Era
The Sea, The Sea
Roman Lives and Values
The "Five Good Emperors"

7. Paganisms and Christianities, 40 BCE - 305 CE

The Jesus Mystery
A Crisis in Tradition
Ministry and Movement
What Happened to His Disciples?
Christianities Everywhere
Romans in Pursuit
Pagan Vitality
Stoicism and Neoplatonism

8. The Early Middle Ages, 306 CE - 750 CE

The Imperial Crisis
Imperial Decline: Rome's Overreach
Martyrdom and empire
A Christian Emperor and a Christian Church
The Rise of "New Rome"
"The Age of Ignorance"
The Islamic Revelation
From Preacher to Conqueror
Compulsion or Conversion?
Classical Traditions and Western Expansion
Barbarian Kings and Scholar-Monks
Divided Estates and Kingdoms
The Body as Money and Women as Property
Christian Paganism
Pockets of Intellectual Life

9. Reform and Renewal, 750-1258

Two Palace Coups
The Carolingian Ascent
Imperial Coronation
Carolingian Collapse
The Islamic Empire
Sunnis and Shi'a
The Qur'an and the Philosophers
The Splintering of the Caliphate
The Reinvention of Western Europe
Mediterranean Cities
The Reinvention of the Church
The Crusades
But Not a War Against Islam
Parliaments and the Mamluk Empire
Judaism Reformed, Renewed, and Reviled

10. Worlds Brought Down, 1258-1453

Late Medieval Europe
The Guild System
The Mendicant Orders
Early Representative Government
The Hundred Years' War
The Plague
Conquest of the Islamic World
In the Wake of the Mongols
A New Center for Islam
Conservatism and Reaction
The Ottoman Turks
Persia under the Il-Khans

11. Renaissances and Reformations, 1350-1550

"I Fixed upon Antiquity"
Classicism, Humanism, and Statecraft
The Political and Economic Matrix
The Renaissance Achievement
The Protestant Renaissance
Erasmus: Satirist and Itinerant Scholar
Martin Luther: The Gift of Salvation
Rebellion against the Church: "95 Theses"
The Reformation Goes International
Scholars and Activists
Protestantism without Luther
Calvin: Protestantism as Theology
The Rebirth of Satire
Utopias and Book Burnings
Rabelais: The In-house Catholic Attack

12. The Last Crusades, 1492-1648

The New World
New Continents and Profits
Conquest and Epidemics
New Crops and the Enclosure Movement
The Patriarchal Family
Sexual Morality
Enemies Within: Witches and Jews
The Jews of the East and West
Wars of Religion
The Peace of Augsburg and the Edict of Nantes
The Church of England
The Thirty Years' War
Wars of Religion: The Eastern Front
The Waning of the Sultanate
New Centers of Intellectual Life
The Ottomans: From Strife to Warfare

13. Science Breaks Out and Breaks Through, 1500-1700

The Copernican Drama
Galileo and the Truth of Numbers
The Other Scientific Revolution
The Council of Trent, 1546-1563
The Society of Jesus
Inquisition and Inquiry
The Revolution Broadens
The Ethical Costs of Science
The Islamic Retreat from Science
Thinking about Truth
Descartes and the Quest for Truth
Newton's Mathematical Principles
The Choices for Western Society

14. From Westphalia to Paris: Regimes Old and New, 1648-1789

The Peace of Westphalia: 1648
The Argument for Tyranny
The Social Contract
Absolute Politics
Police States
Self-Indulgence with a Purpose
Mercantilism and Absolutism
Mercantilism and Poverty
Domesticating Dynamism: Regulating Culture
Decency and Modesty
The Birth of Private Life
The English Exception
Civil War and Restoration
Ottoman Might and Islamic Absolutism
Safavid Pleasures
The End of Order
The Slave Trade and Domestic Subjugation
The return of uncertainty
What Is the Greater West Now?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2015

    This is one of the most one sided books I have ever read.

    This is one of the most one sided books I have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2015

    I agree with Anonymous. This book is very silly, highly anti-Ame

    I agree with Anonymous. This book is very silly, highly anti-American and opposed to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    The introduction to this book clearly states this. He writes about Islam more than anything else. He appears to fee that Islam is more important than any religion. The introduction claims that, " . . . Islam is essentially a Western religion, after all . .. " Well, no, not really, BUT, the actual truth is: Islam, Christianity AND Judaism are all Middle Eastern religions..

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