Civilization: A New History of the Western World

Front Cover
Vintage, Jan 10, 2008 - Civilization, Western - 532 pages
16 Reviews
On 21 September 2001 George W. Bush told Congress 'This is civilization's fight.' A month later he said 'I'm not moving on because we're in a fight for civilization itself.' European leaders described the 11 September attacks as 'a declaration of war against the entire civilized world' by a force 'dedicated to the destruction of civilization'. But what do we mean by civilization? We have a vague belief in a Western tradition of openness and freedom that has produced a good life for its citizens and a culture of enormous depth and creative power. But the history of our civilization is also filled with unspeakable brutality. For every Leonardo there is a Torquemada, for every Beethoven symphony a concentration camp, for every Chrysler Building a My Lai massacre. How can we come to the defence of a civilization whose benefits seem so questionable? In this ambitious and important book Roger Osborne shows that we can only understand and take comfort in our civilization by re-examining and confronting our past. The barbarity in Western history can no longer be explained away as base human brutality breaking through the restraining bonds of civilization. Instead we need to see that civilization is itself a hazardous enterprise, creating enormous challenges to humans as moral social beings -andshy; challenges that we sometimes fail. ICivilization/I tells the story of the Western world from its origins to the present. Sweeping in its scope and comprehensive in its coverage, ICivilization/I covers everything from the siege of Troy to the Gettysburg address, from Charlemagne to the European Union and from Aristotle to John Rawls. Filled with the voices of the past - including Herodotus, Pericles, Cicero, St Paul, Plotinus, St Augustine, Boccaccio, Machiavelli,Cervantes, Locke, Voltaire, Jefferson, Gibbon, Darwin, Marx, Weber, Roosevelt and Arendt, to name just a few - the book ends with an assessment of the present state of Western civilization in the light of its past andshy;and an indication of how it might go about the urgent task of renewing itself. At such a dangerous time in the world's history this remarkable and compelling book is required reading.

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Review: Civilization: A New History of the Western World

User Review  - Geoff Davies - Goodreads

Osborne does much more than celebrate grand achievements of Western Civilization. He is willing to look at the awful things that are just as much part of our story, and at the values that have allowed/impelled us into the horrors as well as the accomplishments. Read full review

Review: Civilization: A New History of the Western World

User Review  - John Burns - Goodreads

My personal favorite. A good mix of history, culture and art. Must have read it 20 times. Read full review

About the author (2008)

Roger Osborne's work has provided a range of innovative insights into our views of the past, and how they inform the present. His previous books include The Floating Egg: Episodes in the Making of Geology, The Deprat Affair: Ambition, Revenge and Deceit in French Indo-China, The Dreamer of the Calle San Salvador: Visions of Sedition and Sacrilege in Sixteenth-Century Spain, Civilization: A New History of the Western World and Of The People, By The People, A New History of Democracy.

Roger Osborne is also a professional playwright. His plays include The Art Of Persuasion, first performed in 2011 and Laughton, staged in 2013 He lives in Scarborough.

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