The only country to successfully enter the Western world on its own terms was Japan — and indeed was soon carving out an empire of its own. Britain ended up with the largest of these Western empires, and London was, by the end of the 19th century, the de facto financial capital of the world. This laid the foundations for the dominance of English as the lingua franca of the world. During the early 20th century, however, rivalries between the European powers became increasingly intense.
The nationalist movements on the continent had also not been resolved. These issues, plus imperial jostling as countries such as Germany and Italy tried to elbow their way into the group of imperialist powers, led to the outbreak of the World War One. This horrific conflict mainly took place on European soil and resulted in more than 10 million deaths. The defeated European powers, the German, Austrian and Ottoman empires, ended the war in a state of complete collapse, and were wiped off the map by the Treaty of Versailles and other treaties which ended the war.
One other power which had started the war had also vanished. The stresses of waging total war had been too much for this huge but ramshackle state, and it had fallen to Communist agitators in the Russian Revolution of The old Russian Empire had been replaced with a new entity, the Soviet Union. The war dealt a huge blow to the economic ability of western European powers like Britain and France to sustain their overseas empires.
It also changed Western culture for ever. Previous modes of culture, now associated with the lead up to the terrible carnage of the First World War, were discredited, and in their place new cultural expressions arose. The early post-war years saw new fashions from America , such as the flappers and jazz music, become wildly popular. Modern art and architecture, based on completely new forms and ideas, replaced old styles which stretched in an unbroken tradition back, via the Renaissance, to Greece and Rome.
In many countries, equality between the sexes received a major step up when women gained the vote for the first time.
The boom times of the s came to an end all too soon. The Wall Street Crash of ushered in a period of economic depression around the world. Banks were broken, factories closed, millions of workers were throw out of work, middle classes families lost their savings. In Europe, this led directly to the rise of fascism, above all the coming to power of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party in Germany.
This in turn led in a straight line to the outbreak of World War Two. This was a far larger conflict than World War One had been, and involved a much greater proportion of the world. It also involved one of the most horrific episodes in world history, the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust. This rivalry led to a new period of tension known as the Cold War.
The European nations ended Word War 2 economically ruined. The rivalry between the superpowers was soon given a sharper edge by the ability of both sides to deploy nuclear weapons in their arsenals. The Cold War soon spread right around the world. In their place, the superpowers began to compete for influence. In this, the Soviet Union was apparent the more successful, as communist regimes became established in China, South East Asia, Africa and even the Caribbean. Other newly-independent nations took on a non-aligned stance , though many of these leaned more towards the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc.
Western Europe during the Cold War. The Cold War years also, paradoxically, saw huge economic advance, especially for Western nations. The United States gave or lent money on a vast scale the Marshall Plan to get European countries , plus Japan , back on their feet after the Second World War, so as to staunch the spread of communism.
The standard of living rose dramatically in these countries, with millions of homes becoming equipped with TVs, fridges, electric cookers and other home appliances. The Cold War led to great technological innovation, for example with advances in military aviation feeding through to mass air travel and mass tourism. A space race , born of American and Russian efforts to build arsenals of long-range nuclear missiles, ended with the Americans sending a man to the moon.
It also led to the placing of numerous satellites in orbit around the world, laying the foundations for dramatic progress in civilian communications, navigation, land surveying and other uses. Military rivalry stimulated amazing advances in electronics, miniaturisation and computing, laying the foundations for a revolution in automation in the workplace which began to gather pace in the s, as well as the emergence of a whole new entertainments industry. On the other hand, superpower rivalry undermined the political stability and economic welfare of many countries in the poorer parts of the world.
Countries in South East Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, experienced long and bloody communist insurgencies, and in Africa anti-communist forces tended to keep in power minority White regimes, especially in South Africa and in the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. These in turn provoked uprisings which looked to the Communist Bloc for support. Culturally, the Cold War years built on the jazz age of the inter-war period. In the late s and the s the hippy movement preached a more relaxed attitude to sexual morals, aided by the widespread availability of the pill.
With this came a more liberal attitude to homosexuality, and also a greater disrespect for authority and class differences. The use of recreational drugs became more mainstream. Sexual equality gained ground, especially in the work place. Divorce and family breakdown also became more common, and religious belief continued its long-standing decline. Concerns for the environment became much more widespread in the s. At this time, many European societies were being changed by the migration of millions of people of non-Western origin to their countries.
These new arrivals were often greeted with suspicion, indeed downright hostility, at first, and it has taken them many years to become accepted members of their new societies. In some places this tension has never been truly dealt with. The Cold War started coming to an end when China embraced economic liberalisation from the mids, and when it became apparent that the Soviet Union could no longer afford the vast expense of its military rivalry with the West, from the mids.
The entire Soviet system collapsed very suddenly at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. The European Union , which had grown up in western Europe during the Cold War years and was a major exponent of the values of Western free market economics as well as Western democracy, soon expanded to take in former communist countries in central Europe.
Economic expansion also took hold in many countries, and these years saw a huge drop in poverty around the world. New threats were soon emerging, however. A frightening new disease, AIDS, began killing off millions of people in throughout the world, and especially in poorer nations. Africa was especially hard hit.
Concerns about the environment increased when scientists began voicing fears that the use of carbon-based fuels was causing potentially catastrophic climate change on a global scale. The search for alternative energy forms based on renewable resources took on a new urgency. Most frightening of all was the emergence of a radical Islamist movement which espoused terrorism as a weapon to spread Islam.
Many Muslims saw the global dominance of what they saw as an aggressively secular Western civilization as an existential threat their religion and way of life, and some saw violence as the only proper response to this. In a small group of Islamic militants mounted a spectacular attack on a major landmark in New York, killing three thousand people or more. As of they were still in both places. Further terrorist attacks were taking place on a regular basis, in Madrid, London, Kenya and other countries; and throughout the West a debate was taking place about how to effectively assimilate peoples of non-Western origin into their societies.
Despite these difficulties, as of the West was still by far the dominant civilization on the planet. It set the terms of global trade, and was the source of most technological innovation, scientific advance and cultural trends. A rich heritage The mixed ancestry of Western civilization gave it a rich heritage to draw on. Early modern Europe From the early 15th century, European society was transformed by a succession of revolutionary changes. The American Revolution By the midth century the European colonies in North America had become fully functioning societies in their own right.
National Archives and Records Administration The constitution by which it set to govern itself was consciously modelled on Enlightenment principles of rational government. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Dec 26, Horza added it. This book promises much but fails to deliver. The chapters where Hobson summarizes the works of the above scholars serve as useful introductions to the 'rebalanced' literature on global patterns of economic and technological development, he deftly punctures the myth of a peaceful This book promises much but fails to deliver. The chapters where Hobson summarizes the works of the above scholars serve as useful introductions to the 'rebalanced' literature on global patterns of economic and technological development, he deftly punctures the myth of a peaceful, lassiez-faire industrial Britain and his anti-Eurocentric broadsides are fired off with aplomb.
Unfortunately, that's about as good as it gets. This book aims to recast the rise of Western Europe as a contingent phenomenon facilitated almost entirely by earlier advances by other societies. An avowed opponent of Eurocentrist history, Hobson prosecutes this case with a great deal of rhetorical heft but little in the way of analytical acuity.
This results in a tedious game of Huntingtonian civilisational dickwavery no more interesting or insightful for having inverted the conventional Eurocentric paradigm. Anything that might complicate this one-way stream of Eastern ingenuity, such as the Qing court learning of the Earth's sphericity established by Greek astronomers in the 3rd c. BC from the Jesuits or the decline of Islamic science after the 13th century is omitted, or in the latter case brought up only to be skated over as a dastardly Eurocentrist debating trick, as opposed to, yanno, something that happened.
If only that was as disingenuous as this book got. Note here that I am using the names of the relevant Chinese and Indian dynasties of the period - these are almost always omitted by Hobson, who instead refers throughout the book to 'Europe', 'the Islamic World', 'China', etc. His efforts to expound on the defensiveness and insecurities behind the Spanish and Portuguese European states can be disaggregated, Chinese and Japanese dynasties not so much naval expeditions of the 15th and 16th century undermine his argument that the emergence of an aggressively anti-East racial and imperial ideology was an unreasonable development.
This presentation of "Christendom besieged" as a myth is untenable the moment one realises that Hobson has left one of the greatest Asian gunpowder empires of the age entirely out of the picture. Yes, in a blatant piece of deck-stacking Hobson discusses the origins of European imperialism without any reference to the Ottoman Empire.
To his credit, Hobson is upfront about the provocative goals of this book, but I just don't see the point of this polemic when so much of his thesis is equally hollow, never engaging with the complexities of the world system and ultimately offering nothing more than "they got lucky" as an explanation for the industrial and scientific revolutions that did take place in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. This just doesn't wash: why is European invention derivative and contingent and not Persian, Arabic and Japanese? What were the mechanisms that insulated Chinese astronomy from Greek and Islamic innovations?
How did the Song Dynasty come so close to an industrial breakthrough in the 12th century and why weren't those developments followed up by successor dynasties? Is geography a factor, or disruption? Questions like these are why I read history, and why I found this book such a disappointment. View all 14 comments. Very nice book i like it so much. What is civilisation? John M. Hobson bases his arguments on "Capitalism is civilization".
He reveals the eastern origins of the tools that serve capitalism with numerous citations. Like an archaeologist.
Then we witness that how the west imitated the east and why the west ignored the east. The book is very useful in this respect. However, Hobson is an academician. I've read a lot of academic work. I haven't seen certain judgments like "European barbarians" and "Great civilizations of the east".
Racism and barbarism exist in the east and west. On the other hand, Hobson mentions scientific superiority and cultural depth of the east rarely. He should have mentioned these more. Science and culture are real civilisations. Capitalism isn't. Also, he contradicts himself. At the end of the book, he shares Edward Said's sentence: " This is the basis of science. There aren't certain judgments like "European barbarians" and "Great civilizations of the east" on the basis of science. Hobson gives nice information in the book but his style isn't nice. Mar 16, Paul Hedges rated it it was amazing.
This is a very comprehensive review and summation of arguments that have been gathering for a long time. In one place Hobson very deftly shows how many of the claims discoveries, inventions, or advancement of "Western civilization" are actually borrowings from elsewhere. He adds his own original take in discussing identity and also in fitting various pieces of the puzzle together. Certainly some of the claims and arguments may be somewhat disputable, i.
Nevertheless, given that this book takes in a global tour over a couple of thousand years though focusing mainly on the last thousand it is able, while one can see the claim about China in a certain context it didn't go beyond its land empire of "greater China" into a global imperialism which it could quite easily have done.
After this book, claims and histories of Western development, empire, civilization, and economic and industrials progress will need to be radically rethought and reshaped. As noted, there is not much here that is new except the global vision and take but rather than reading a dozen other books but you'll probably want to delve into some of the deeper period or regional studies after this the clear evidence and summary of contemporary global history is on display here.
There is no such thing as western civilisation
View 2 comments. Jul 27, Sara-Maria Sorentino rated it it was amazing Shelves: alternativehistories. When reading books purporting to "debunk myths" guided by a politics I emphatically support , I often feel as if all that is accomplished is the accumulation of more facts to fill in small holes in a framework of alternative history already agreed upon between me and the author.
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That's all well and nice—these "facts" come in handy when I need to lash out at somebody, but such experiences are not especially satisfying or meaningful in any lasting way. But this book really did shift something for When reading books purporting to "debunk myths" guided by a politics I emphatically support , I often feel as if all that is accomplished is the accumulation of more facts to fill in small holes in a framework of alternative history already agreed upon between me and the author.
But this book really did shift something for me, I'm just not sure what that is. At the very least, it made me more attentive of how much of my hazy sense of history still has its base in Eurocentrism, and that's a good enough lesson for me. The task now is to delve into the contours of this stubborn lingering. I remain in awe as to how the past is systematically silenced. Hobson's book is accessible and very needed. Plus he writes with a bit of bite.
The Eastern origins of Western civilization | Oxfam GB | Oxfam’s Online Shop
I do wish he included a bibliography and provided more endnotes. These things are a bit nitpicky but when taking on such a large task, I get anxious about detractors need for proof. I think I needed more meta-theory to go along with it. The problematic of "history", time and all that, continues to bewilder me but I really can't get into that in a goodreads review.
View 1 comment. Jan 16, Andrew rated it really liked it. This was a really good book, but it was definitely not aimed at the general public. Fortunately, there isn't TOO much jargon, and virtually all of the argument is understandable without specialized knowledge. The argument itself is beautiful and compelling. It has totally changed how I understand world history and the beginning of the "Industrial Revolution.
I do have to admit that because this book is so strongly aimed a This was a really good book, but it was definitely not aimed at the general public. I do have to admit that because this book is so strongly aimed at people within the field, many parts ended up more boring than I would've hoped. A good ways through the book, there were long-ish sections detailing a number of inventions and innovations in navigation, farming equipment, industry, etc.
Other sections I wish he would've gone into greater detail about.