Civilization: Book summary and reviews of Civilization by Niall Ferguson

Civilization

The West and the Rest

By Niall Ferguson

Civilization
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2011,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed?

In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic. These were the "killer applications" that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic. Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.

Yet now, Ferguson argues, the days of Western predominance are numbered-not because of clashes with rival civilizations, but simply because the Rest have now downloaded the six killer apps we once monopolized-while the West has literally lost faith in itself.

Civilization does more than tell the gripping story of the West's slow rise and sudden demise; it also explains world history with verve, clarity, and wit. Controversial but cogent and compelling, Civilization is Ferguson at his very best.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The book would have gained by greater focus and less of a jumble of details. The reason for Ferguson's fear of 'the rest' isn't clear, but those who share his concern will find that he has penned a sobering caution." - Publishers Weekly

"Fans of Ferguson will find him as engaging as ever, but numerous digressions and simplistic treatments mar the book's potentially intriguing points." - Library Journal

"A richly informed, accessible history lesson." - Kirkus Reviews

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

"One of the world's leading historians." - The Independent (UK)

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

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

"A dazzling history of Western ideas." - The Economist (UK)

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Author Information

Niall Ferguson Author Biography

Niall Ferguson MA, D.Phil., is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Born in Glasgow in 1964, he graduated with First Class Honors from Magdalen College, Oxford. His books include The Pity of War, The House of Rothschild, The Cash Nexus, Empire and Colossus .

A prolific commentator on contemporary politics and economics, Ferguson writes and reviews regularly for the British and American press. He is a contributing editor for the Financial Times and a regular contributor to Newsweek. In 2004, Time named him as one of the world’s hundred ...

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