Sure, the author's viewpoint is militantly secular. That's why it's so very funny to read comments urging him to go to "the source", i.e. the Bible.
For anyone not offended by secularism, it's a great book, extremely well read, with just a few issues that one must take with a grain of salt: his implied definition of what is East/West, his attachment to certain cultures at the expense of others (Russia and China, some have argued), and a sometimes strained polarization of the two notions. But it is all in all a great discussion of history; it can only do you good :)
This book took a disinterested look at two thousand conflict between east and west and contains vast amount of interesting information. But because the scope is quite big, so some details might be skipped, but overall, a good book.
Presents the compelling argument that Europe and the middle east have been culturally divided since pre-history, irrespective of which empires and religions have ruled them. Main concern is the author is careless to the point of amateurish with his fact(oid) checking. These are rarely central to his thesis but do detract from its impact. (ie "'Veni vidi vici' uttered by Julius Caesar after his conquest of Britain' - um, no, he reputedly said them of Pontus, and his brief incursion into Britain was anything but a conquest)
This is a great survey of the thousands of years of mistrust, misunderstandings and the planting of the seeds of discontent that still are very much with us today. John Lee was the perfect narrator for this book. Loved it.
I would gladly return it, but since I alredy returned two books, I only wrote this review
Very interesting and well done. I went on to read Lawrence in Arabia and thought this had been an excellent prelude to that amazing book.
Pagden admits his bias in the first few sentences of the book. I found his analysis extremely flawed due to those biases. A history writer should interpret actions and motivations in the context of the era under review, and at least make an effort to avoid letting their personal bias pollute their interpretations. I think Pagden failed on both counts.
The book certainly has some good insights, or at least speculations, about the social and psychological evolution of the East-West cultural divide. That said, the author wastes a lot of time following his own bunny trails and ranting about how he views the world. All authors who write about historical events spin their narrative to support their beliefs to some extent, but Padgen's lack of objectivity is blatant. Having to weed credible ideas out of an overbearingly-obvious philosophical agenda gets tiring. Several times he made statements as if they were fact that are merely weak historical theories. Other times he employs bizarre logic and an obvious 21st-century filter to draw sweeping conclusions about complex causes in the progression of history. Worst of all, the author categorically rejects any historical example that contradicts his already-drawn conclusions. If it is a person, he brushes them aside as insincere and probably a liar. If it is a historical event, he immediately assumes it is historically inaccurate...
Padgen could have double checked his facts, avoided presenting theories as definite truths, and at least attempted to be a little more objective in his narrative. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad, there were some positive insights in the book. However, while the cover looks like a respectable, academic work, it reads more like the opinions of a wanna-be historian who read Wikipedia and delights himself in making philosophical conclusions about history.
The narrator was solid. Good voice, good pace.
Disappointment. I was looking for something with a little more complexity and the mature ability to see situations from multiple angles. Instead, the author reads history strictly through the lens of his conclusions and his philosophy.
This is just about the most polemical, biased history I've ever "read". It consists primarily of a bunch of quotes from Europeans stating how much the Middle East and all its countries and people suck, interspersed with quick glosses of famous battles, leaders, etc. There is no explanation of *why* any of the events unfolded the way they did - no discussion of technology, institutions, etc. The characteristics attributed to "The East" (i.e. the Mideast) are almost laughably inconsistent - Middle Easterners are decadent girly-men one chapter, then rough uncivilized barbarians the next. But the derision and smug superiority never lets up for an instant. There is very little history in this history book, but a whole lot of cheerleading for the author's tribe. If you skip it, you won't be missing much.
trying to explain the armenian genocide, the author tries to explain it by mentioning that the Turks thought the Armenians killed Turks when they declared independence in 1915. this ignores the murder of all educated and leaders of the armenian community in the 1890's.
typical british view that created the current trouble in Middle east with their meddling.