Civilization: The West and the Rest

Civilization: The West and the Rest

by Niall Ferguson


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Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

From the bestselling author of The Ascent of Money and The Square and the Tower

Western civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuries.

How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications”—competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic—that the Rest lacked, allowing it to surge past all other competitors.

Yet now, Ferguson shows how the Rest have downloaded the killer apps the West once monopolized, while the West has literally lost faith in itself. Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside clashes (and fusions) of civilizations, Civilization: The West and the Rest recasts world history with force and wit. Boldly argued and teeming with memorable characters, this is Ferguson at his very best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143122067
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 111,628
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of the world's most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier, Civilization, The Great Degeneration, Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, and The Square and the Tower. He is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. His many awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service (2010), the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2012) and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism (2013).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Maps xii

List of Figures xiii

Preface to the UK Edition xv

Introduction: Rasselas's Question 1

1 Competition 19

Two Rivers 20

The Eunuch and the Unicorn 26

The Spice Race 33

The Mediocre Kingdom 44

2 Science 50

The Siege 50

Micrographia 60

Osman and Fritz 71

Tanzimat Tours 85

From Istanbul to Jerusalem 90

3 Property 96

New Worlds 96

Land of the Free 103

American Revolutions 115

The Fate of the Gullahs 125

4 Medicine 141

Burke's Prophecy 142

The Juggernaut of War 157

Médecins Sans Frontieres 168

The Skulls of Shark Island 175

Black Shame 185

5 Consumption 196

The Birth of the Consumer Society 196

Turning Western 218

Ragtime to Riches 227

The Jeans Genie 240

Pyjamas and Scarves 252

6 Work 256

Work Ethic and Word Ethic 256

Get your Kicks 265

The Chinese Jerusalem 277

Lands of Unbelief 288

The End of Days? 291

Conclusion: The Rivals 295

Notes 326

Bibliography 348

Index 379

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“[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

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Civilization 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The point of this book is not to say that the west is innocent, but rather that the same criticisms of the west were happening everywhere else in the world. We are taught (incorrectly) that the ills of the west have created the modern problems of the world. Slavery was happening in every country in the world, so was genocide, so was paternalism. All of that without the western influence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ferguson had done an excellent job explaining the rise of Europe to global power and its decline. Concurrently, the rise of the United States and China are equally included as well. Although one may disagree with Ferguson' s thesis, readers will surely find the work thought provoking and not easy to dismiss. Should be read in conjuction with and as a counter to Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting take on history. I was most fasinated by his critique of American Protestantism and it's historical influence. Clearly not a politically correct rendering of history and tilted toward British & American prominance I found it very interesting and well written. Agree or disagree there is a lot of truth in this book. It will offend conservatives and particularly liberals as well as Kensians and particularly followers of Hayek.
Gilly-BN More than 1 year ago
Both pessimistic and hopeful at the same time.
Klapauzius More than 1 year ago
If you are an anglophile and like the Queen and 5o'clock tea, then you might be delighted by this book, which praises above all, the great British civilization. If you were hoping to find a well written explanation about the ascendance of western civilization, you will be disappointed. 1) The author does not really stay on the message. In discussions of his so called "killer applications" of western civilization (which of course were all invented by the English), he digresses into unrelated historical anecdotes, which having nothing to do with the topic he set out to discuss 2) There are many factual errors in the text, which undermine the overall argument. Some mind boggling correlations are made, e.g. number of hours worked per year (i.e. "work ethic"), e.g. more Protestants = more hours worked, which he then applies to countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea (10%, 4.5%, 18% of the respective population). 3) Finally, he does seem to contradict himself in some places, e.g. in the discussion of medicine, he equates belief in eugenics with the belief in man-made global warming, later on, global warming is discussed as a key threat to western civilization. Religion is presented as stalling one of his "killer apps", science, only to be later portrayed as the essence of "killer app" work ethic. Overall, a disappointing read and ultimately only cannon fodder for the anti-westerners. Not worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He knocked another one out of the park. He is one of the best.
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Enjoyable read. Pact w historical facts from where Ferguson draws insightful conclutons
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Ok *smiles* bye ily
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love one direction
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you take out all the genocide, greed, hypocrisy,paternalism and brutality then the story of the "West" really is a fairy tale.