Civilization: The West and the Rest

Civilization: The West and the Rest

by Niall Ferguson

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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: 9781101548028
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 182,454
File size: 65 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
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 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 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.
jmgallen More than 1 year ago
“Civilization” is an exploration of the reasons for the dominance of the West over the past five centuries. Author Niall Ferguson attributes Western success to the development of six “killer applications”: competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. He examines the historical record for events and trends that he attributes to the killer applications. He then questions whether the West is in relative decline and concludes that other cultures are catching up by adopting the killer apps that made the West dominant. Perhaps this is the West’s greatest conquest. I found this to be a thought-provoking work that spans a much broader scope than most histories. I enjoyed it because it ties so many threads from my other readings into a unified thesis. In identifying the traits responsible for the West’s success this tome provides many readers with something with which to identify or take issue. I recommend this for anyone interested in the mega-trends that have guided civilizations through their rises and falls.
pierthinker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ferguson is a talented writer and spins avery good argument. You are entertained, educated and, generally gently, prodded to think a little as well. Ferguson challenges the liberal agenda that the West is a 'bad thing' and explains well how Western Civilisation (whatever we think of it) dominates global culture, politics and economics. On shakier ground when he addresses if the West will continue to dominate and rightly points out that it will fade as all civilisations do. The question is how long and what will be accomplished in that time?
TheWasp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting view on the reasons western civilization progressed ahead of the rest and how the 'rest" are now catching up and may eventually overtake.Comparisons on competition, science, property, medicine, consumption and work are used to explain why certain countries grew and expanded and why others did not.Some interesting concepts although sometimes so many facts it was difficult to take them all in - although I do think I actually did learn something!
jrgoetziii on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ferguson's work is interesting, covers a lot of ground but often in minimal depth. His ultimate conclusions resonates, which is that what the West needs to fear is its own pusillanimity, but the work itself does less to prove it than it does to relate often trivial factual data.One of his better points, which is worth remarking, is that the greatest lost civilizations have usually collapsed within a remarkably short period--a generation, maybe two. But even this bears some criticism. The Rome of Theodosius was a far weaker place than the Rome of Augustus, so much of the decline had already been evident long before the bizarre reign of Honorius. Rome fell because it sacrificed its proven value system, with its emphasis on military discipline, political engagement, and the restriction of ambition, for a new, different one with an emphasis on withdrawal from the affairs of life and the re-creation of Heaven on Earth. Between this substantial change in not only values but also incentives and constraints, and the depletion of the Roman military through constant civil wars and attempted usurpations, Rome lost its military supremacy, and was forced to allow the barbarian tribes of Goths and other Germans into its territory in exchange for "protection" from other barbarians. The Roman soul was thereby sacrificed. This process was a product of centuries, not of half-decades. Unfortunately, Ferguson treats this chapter in the history of the West far differently; he implies that the reign of Theodosius was as glorious as that of Augustus, rather than a rescue-reign after numerous atrocious reigns by inferior emperors, and asserts confidently that Rome was lost in just one generation.All told, if only for the volume of facts which are therein related, the book holds some value; but for its arguments and presentation, I think it fails to live up to its promise quite miserably.
RobertP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superb read. I think it an objective look at what Western civilization is and how we got here, warts, saints and all.
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Enjoyable read. Pact w historical facts from where Ferguson draws insightful conclutons
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Ok *smiles* bye ily