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.
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.
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.
Details about Alexander the Great.
I am always interested in history, but I don't like his atheistic views that are so strong that it colors the historical view. He likes to attack the Bible, and not purely accurate in his charge which would make me doubt other facts that may be colored by his views. I know this is normal for college professor material. But having graduated many years ago I don't appreciate the atheistic religion that is taught along with the facts.
He had many details in history that was very interesting. I just don't like that haughty anti- God reiterate that make young people think that atheism is education.
This is a long and complex story that is told in a long and complex way. Pagden didn't have me in mind when he was writing it I'm sure; if he did he would have used smaller words. To really understand it the way it is written would take a masters of English but never the less it's a good story and I'm glad I pushed through.... twice. Just keep a dictionary at hand if you're a literary nuffer like me.
Never by Anthony Pagden ... John Lee ... certainly.
He could have written a history - instead of invented one.
unfortunately, no. When a "history" book misleads - there's no redemption.
The issue is this: Mr. Pagden attempts to create a narrative - the West democratic and the East prone to monarchy and leader-worship. His vision is lovely: that history has been a continuous fight of the Trojan War. Unfortunately, he imposes his narrative upon the history such that he ignores facts that contradicts his desired story line. He never mentions that all histories of the Persian empire that he vilifies were written by Greeks and so shouldn't be expected to be laudatory or unbiased.
This just isn't a history. It's a man's wishful vision of a history - in which he paints a narrative and ignores any facts that contradict it.
If I had never read any other history of the middle-east ... I wouldn't have known that Anthony Pagden stole my money.