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Civilization: The Six Ways the West Beat the Rest Hardcover – 3 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (3 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846142733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142734
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of Britain's most renowned historians. He is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World and The Ascent of Money. He also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world.

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Review

Ferguson is the most brilliant British historian of his generation ... he writes with splendid panache (The Times )

One of the world's leading historians (Hamish McRae Independent )

Civilization is another masterpiece ... a pulsing energy suffuses his account [and] fascinating facts burst like fireworks on every page (Dominic Lawson Sunday Times )

This is sharp. It feels urgent. Ferguson, with a properly financially literate mind, twists his knife with great literary brio (Andrew Marr Financial Times )

A dazzling history of Western ideas (Economist )

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of Britain'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 and The Ascent of Money. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world. He has written and presented five highly successful television document series for Channel Four: Empire, American Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money and, most recently, Civilization.

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3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Shearmur on 2 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
In `Civilization', Ferguson seeks to explain how a backward set of territories on the western-most tip of the Eurasian continent in around 1500 was able to produce the most extraordinary growth in living standards and to dominate the world over the following 500 years. His answer is that six complexes of institutions, with their related ideas and behaviours, are responsible for the success. The `killer apps' are competition (among Europe's many states), science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic.

Other states have only managed to emulate the success of the West insofar as they have assiduously copied (or `downloaded' to stick with the computer terminology) the six apps. There is no doubt, Ferguson argues, that this imitation is allowing the rest of the world to catch up rapidly, but he says the West is far from finished if it can continue to apply all six, for none of its rivals is doing so. Iran may have discovered science, China the consumer society and Russia modern medicine, but none has the rule of law and freedom of speech, Ferguson says.

He sees the greatest danger to the West coming not from its external rivals but from within, from its people's lack of knowledge about and faith in the civilization built by its ancestors. `Civilization' is very well written, with a wealth of fascinating historical detail and examples, but the remedy it proposes to the West to stave off its decline is somewhat conservative and wistful. Will simply turning back to an alleged Golden Age propel the West forward?
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120 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Red on Black TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
While I suspect that David Starkey would violently object the two current giants of television history in terms of providing a worldview are the left leaning Simon Schama and the combative neo conservative Niall Ferguson. Their dust up at last years Hay festival was a colourful sparring session between two big intellects firing verbal potshots at each other and a joy to behold. Schama concentrated on providing a robust defense of Barack Obama while Ferguson spent much of his allotted time dissing the President's now famous speech delivered in Cairo in 2009. Indeed he has described it as "touchy feely nonsense" and has in recent weeks sent out lurid warnings about Obama's failure to anticipate the demise of Mubarak and to come to terms with what Ferguson sees as the potential rise of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt and the possible "restoration of the caliphate and the strict application of Sharia". Strong stuff, but Ferguson does like a good row. (see his feud with the nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman)

These themes above are the heart of this new book "Civilization: The West and the Rest" since Ferguson comes from the controversial standpoint that Western dominance has on the whole been a progressive force and that on the basis of a cost benefit analysis the good outweighs the bad (it is a constant theme in all his books). He recently argued that "the rulers of western Africa prior to the European empires were not running some kind of scout camp. They were engaged in the slave trade. They showed zero sign of developing the country's economic resources....and the counterfactual idea that somehow the indigenous rulers would have been more successful in economic development doesn't have any credibility at all.
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 100 REVIEWER on 27 Feb. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I picked up a copy of this book on Friday and finished this afternoon(Sunday) which shows just how readable this book is, not too wordy, not assuming too much fore knowledge yet never talking down to the reader. In common with his previous books, Mr Ferguson is not shy about making definitive claims and he backs them up with many facts, of course perhaps with his own take on them. I am not sufficiently well read to dispute a lot of what he says, I will leave that to other reviewers, but all I can promise anyone who chooses to read this book is that you will enjoy the experience whether or not you agree with the author's conclusions.
There are a plethora of books out there detailing the differences between the "West" and the "East" and this one doesn't go in so much for cultural influences per se as stating the fact that the western style of "civilization" in the author's eyes at least, is due in most part to mercantile, industrial, military and perhaps most surprisingly religious developments, in particular the "protestant work ethic". This is a recurring theme throughout the book and doesn't entirely convince to be fair but is certainly a case well made.
I suspect there will be many critics of the content of the book but surely few of the style in which the arguments are made. I am not in total agreement myself with a lot of them, but the over-riding enthusiasm with which he puts his ideas across, made this for me, in the hoary old phrase, a right riveting read.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By D. Lye on 15 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is both very erudite, and very readable. Niall Ferguson wears his immense learning lightly as he maps out the characteristics that allowed the tiny nations of Western Europe to dominate the entire planet, and goes on to speculate as to how these characteristics might be adopted by the emerging powers, particularly China. Informative, lucid and thought-provoking.
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