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Civilization: Is the West History [DVD]

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Civilization: Is the West History [DVD] + The Ascent of Money [DVD] [2008] (Two-Disc Set) + China: Triumph and Turmoil [DVD]
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Product details

  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Channel 4 DVD
  • DVD Release Date: 11 April 2011
  • Run Time: 280 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004LQG1AC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,214 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


The West once ruled more than half the world. The religion it exported is still followed by a third of mankind. Above all, the way people live--or aspire to live--is unmistakably an invention of the West. All over the world, more and more human beings eat a Western diet, wear Western clothes and live in Western housing. But are we living through the beginning of the end of the West’s ascendancy?

The series includes:

1. A Tale of Two Rivers: Why Western Europe’s economy outstripped Eastern China’s
2. The Siege: Why Central Europe turned the tide against the Ottoman Empire
3. New Worlds: Why North America succeeded where South America failed
4. Hearts of Darkness: Why Europe’s empires failed in their mission to “civilize” Africa
5. Cross-dressing Civilizations: The resurrection of the West as the “consumer society”
6. Lost Faiths: The decline of Western beliefs--not only Christianity, but also nationalism and even Communism.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By the Knight on 21 Mar 2012
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I decided to watch this series a second time just recently, but, having just watched the episode about medicine, have decided to stop. It is an accessible, interesting and engaging series, but Ferguson digresses while also failing to address the topic in sufficient depth. At the beginning of the series he states that one of his main aims is to discuss why and how Western civilization had got ahead of non-Western societies. And so it should be. But, I feel that he does not make enough relevant comparisons between the West and the rest. He also discusses issues which, although interesting, are not really germane to the topic. To illustrate, in the episode about medicine, not a lot is said about the lack of progress in terms of medicine in non-Western societies over the centuries. The focus is entirely on Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Also, he goes on at considerable length about what rotters the Germans were in Africa, which is an interesting enough topic, but not germane to THE topic. in the episode about property, Ferguson illustrates his point by comparing at great length North American society and South and Central American societies, while pointing out that the latter two societies were built on a foundation created by the Spanish conquest. The thing is, Spain IS and, at the time of the conquest of the Americas, WAS a Western society. Nothing is said about other non-Western societies with regards to the 'killer app' of property.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LXIX TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 22 Jan 2014
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This 6-part TV series should be seen within the context of one thesis or hypothesis - namely, that the West is losing its global supremacy due to other nations copying it and by turning its back on its formula for success. In that sense, these 2 DVD's are thought-provoking. Of course, a massive topic like this can only be dealt with in terms of snapshots and anecdotes, but the anchor point of the narrative (the 6 'killer apps') gives this box set an overarching theme and stimulation for further thinking.

It's interesting to see a historian provide a macro view of something, to analyse broad-based trends and to then extrapolate these changes into the future. For me, that's real history - engaging anecdotes mixed with hindsight trend analysis and futurism. I believe it was Winston Churchill who said something along the lines of: 'The further back you look, the further forward you can see.' Professor Ferguson picks up the mantle and makes interesting books and television with it.

Each episode here is 48 minutes long and involves a world tour of backdrops. It's clear that the Professor leans to the right (apart from his acceptance of man-made climate change) - therefore he is not a lone voice. Many commentators point to liberalism and socialism as the twin evils that have placed the West near to where ancient Rome stood in 410AD (decadent, bankrupt, bathed in hubris and on the brink of calamity).

Regardless of politics, this is good television. It's an ambitious theme (and it shows at times) but it's entertaining viewing nonetheless.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stuart444 on 12 July 2011
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I enjoyed this series. I am a professional UK engineer, not a historian or an economist. I found much of the material innovative, thought-provoking, and the description and differences between current major world groups (in terms of geography, history, religion, economic development etc) is very enlightening.

I'm somewhat disappointed to see some critical reviews here by people who seem to put their own view of "errors" by Ferguson as proof that the whole analysis is wrong. There are many facts and also many simplification in the treatise. The history of the world can't be written in a few DVDs! It is impossible to present something as complex as this without simplifications and interpretations; this does not make them wrong. Critics - when you can offer something better, then I for one would be glad to hear of it. Frankly I don't think you stand a chance of doing that. The power of a good analyst is seeing past the fog and perceiving the underlying dominant forces. I think Feguson hits the nail bang on the head.

Well done Prof - you've given me optimism and pessimism about the future. I still believe the world is in for a very rough ride in the next century, but I no longer believe it will necessarily end in disaster for mankind. I think we should all consider some of the optimism and pessimism in your analysis and act accordingly.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Rowena Hoseason HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 10 Mar 2011
This is excellent factual TV, presented by an expert in the field who has that neat trick of finding pivotal moments in history and explaining them clearly and intelligently to the viewer.
Prof Ferguson's earlier series The Ascent Of Money [DVD] [2008] brilliantly explained how commerce evolved (and then why it all went so wonky in recent years). In this series he demonstrates exactly why western capitalism became the dominant economic and social structure of the 20th century, and gives us the benefit of his view on what might happen next. So he highlights crucial moments in the past -- when the Ming dynasty in China made sailing unlawful, for example, and turned inward instead of expanding outward -- which demonstrate his understanding that trade drives the economic development of a society. When religion or politics collide with commerce, Prof Ferguson demonstrates that cultural development frequently stalls when commerce is interrupted.
The series uses modern film on location to illustrate its themes; the shots of the Forbidden City and China's Great Wall perfectly demonstrated how far ahead Oriental society was compared to London at the time. And while the English were puttering around with fishing boats, the Chinese built a fleet of ocean-going ships, capable of carrying tens of thousands of troops or traders at a time...
Ferguson's central argument is that the West utilised six building blocks in the past to great effect (science, democracy, competition, medicine, ethics, etc) to build our modern civilisation, but that other societies are now taking the lead in many of these areas.
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