This book interprets Western civilization broadly--continuing to discuss the Middle East beyond the confines of the ancient period. The chronologically organized narrative integrates political, social, economic, and intellectual history. It broadens readers' perspective on the American experience in context with the rest of the world, and helps them discover bridges to other cultures and develop sympathy with their struggles.KEY TOPICS Chapter topics cover The archaic states of the Bronze Age, The Iron Age, Aegean civilization, the Hellenistic era and the rise of Rome, Rome's empire and the unification of the Western world, the West's medieval civilization, the emergence of Europe, Europe's High Middle Ages, Renaissance and exploration, Europe's scientific revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment. For an understanding of the processes that formed the Western way of life.
Why another Western civilization textbook? Indeed, in recent years some educators have dismissed the teaching of Western civilization as an outmoded concept. They claim that the Western civilization course was invented to promote Euro-American triumphalism and it has perpetuated colonialist attitudes, cultural intolerance, and even racism. In some undergraduate curricula, the course has been replaced by one that offers a broader survey of world civilizations. The critics of Western civilization courses make some valid points-at least with respect to the way some courses have been taught. But the fact that a subject can be badly taught does not suggest that it should never be taught. Any national history can degenerate into propaganda and promote jingoism. The fault is less with the subject than with a loss of historical objectivity in its presentation. Students at American colleges and universities are--regardless of their distant ethnic backgrounds--immersed in a culture deeply indebted to Europe and the Mediterranean region. Other parts of the globe have made undoubted contributions to the culture of what is largely an immigrant nation, but these influences integrate with the values and institutions of what is invariably described as "the West." Despite this, most students begin their undergraduate careers with very little knowledge of the roots of their Western way of life. Those who come from American high schools have repeatedly been taught their national history, but they seldom have more than a brief, cursory exposure to its background. Their lack of understanding of the historical processes that shaped the West makes it difficult for them to situate the American experience in a global context (see the map insert, "The West and the World"). Far from narrowing their perspective, a course in Western civilization can help them understand the development of other cultures and sympathize with their struggles. Approach The West: Culture and Ideasdefines West in the broadest terms as encompassing all the cultures that trace at least some of their ancestry to the ancient Mediterranean world. Many of the textbooks currently available for teaching courses in Western civilization begin with a brief treatment of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations and then largely abandon the Middle East for Europe. When they reach the medieval period, they mention the rise of Islam but leave students with the impression that Islam is an alien, non-Western phenomenon. This obscures the fact that both Christians and Muslims built on the same cultural foundations: Hebraic religious tradition and Hellenistic philosophy and science. It also minimizes the importance of the aid that the Muslim world gave medieval Europe in reclaiming the legacy both shared from the ancient era. With the rise of the Ottoman Empire, Islam often disappears from the narrative (except for brief references to later European encroachments on Ottoman territory). Such minimal treatment of Muslim history poorly prepares students to understand the current international political situation and to evaluate critically common "Western" assumptions about what is, with only partial accuracy, called "the East." The future of much more than the West may depend on Western civilization's Euro-American and Middle Eastern heirs re-examining their history of interaction and divergence. Despite the fact that civilization is their subject, most textbooks pay little attention to defining the term and usually content themselves with listing a few of its common attributes (cities, literacy, etc.).The West: Culture and Ideasurges students to think more deeply about the nature of civilized life by investigating the function of civilization--the explanation for the institutions and technologies that a specific civilization may or may not evolve. It defines civilization as the survival strategy characteristic of the hum