and am well-educated, but failed to get whatever "point" Ferguson was making here - just lots and lots (and lots!) of historical stories/anecdotes/facts for 14 hours. His reading wasn't a problem for me; although the sections where he read quoted passages in the speakers' accented English seemed weird at times, that did serve to set them off from the "story" itself.
If I had the choice again, I'd read (skim) the print version instead. I tried breaking it down to listening no more than an hour per day, and even that left me looking at the time-elapsed counter frequently.
The depth at which the subject is tackled.
Niall Ferguson is a strong narrator and because it is his own book he knows just when to put the infection in a sentence. The subject is entertaining and well expressed. There is a pretty obvious bias that Mr. Ferguson acknowledges from the beginning but overall it doesn't show up too often and is not very one sided. there is allot of good history in this book.
This fascinating look into Western Civilization by Niall Ferguson is certain to ruffle some feathers. It is bound to raise controversy. Ferguson asks the question that can’t be asked. The question that must never be asked in our modern world: Why did Western Civilization come to dominate the rest of the world in the last 500 years? After all, five hundred years ago a betting man would have looked at puny Europe and compared it with the powerful Moslem world and the vast Chinese realm and scoffed at the idea that the Europeans would have come to dominate. What caused this? The stock answer today is colonialism. That is of course nonsense. After all the Islamic world was built oni colonialism. China was a vast empire. Why were they not ascendant?
Ferguson comes up with the answer. Western Civilization developed six concept, what he calls “killer applications” that allowed it to grow and dominate. These “killer applications” are competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic. He goes into great detail about each of these concepts, how they developed, and why the lack of these “killer applications” or their underuse lead to the other world powers drop at the same time that the West began to rise. There is some fascinating material here. I am sure that many will argue against Ferguson’s points, but the ability to debate and discus such concepts freely is itself a mark of the West.
One of the things that I like about this book is that it eschews any racial nonsense. The West did not become superior due to any superiority on the part of Western man. Rather it became superior because of it’s ideas. He shows that as nations begin to adopt these ideas they begin to grow. The ascendency in our own time of China is in many ways related to the slow acceptance of these ideas. This is an excellent book and deserves a reading.
insightful, unusual, stimulating
doesn't get bogged down
no - but perfect for falling asleep
Really enjoyable bedtime listen - lulls me to sleep in an informative way.
The author outlined his concepts in a clear and concise manner. The chapter headings really clarified his position and provided direction in the reading.
The medicine chapter really stood out. The impacts of tropical diseases on the progression of different civilizations left a lasting impression in my mind.
It's difficult to pick out a favorite scene in this book. The chapter on medicine was one of my favorites.
There's a reason why professional actors read audio books. This was a great book that because very annoying because of the author's poor ability to narrate his own book. His ethnic accents were the worst and borderline insulting. Read this one, don't listen to it.
Yes. Good Material ... but don't take it too seriously. Ferguson ignores Indian civilization altogether and thus makes some obvious mistakes (e.g. Atheism is a western construct). There's also a bias here towards Christianity and the repreated "The West and the Rest" tagline can be offensive. And he really didn't need to try to appear 'tech-savvy' with terms like Killer Apps. That said, its a good book and I'd recommend it to all with the caveat that it shouldn't be taken as gospel.
I already have! He is a good writer - some biases not withstanding.
First, I must say that I love the way Niall Ferguson reads this book. On top of that, he makes an excellent argument for why the Western Civilization predominates. Just as scary is his contention that our "king of the hill" status is sliding away. I learned more about world history in the 11 hours than listening to almost any other book I heard. When he describes Western Europe in the 14th century, it is mind boggling that they took over the world. His contention that turning inward and restricting the rest of the world influence is the key to the fall of a great civilization. It is particularly relevant to our times in the US. Our xenophobia is literally setting us up for a fall. My suggestion for interested readers is to listening to the book, "Debt:a history". After these two books, any intelligent person will have a firm understanding of where we've come from and where we're heading as a people. It's hard to not buy into the belief that homo sapiens are essentially war mongers. When watching the movie, "Chronicles of Riddick," it is hard not to think the US is not turning into Necromongers.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Ascent of Money" so thought I would give it a spin. "Civilization" was no disappointment. Ferguson is a great writer & makes the subject matter both accessible and engaging. Like "Ascent", I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions but it's one hell of a ride to listen to him think about Big Issues.
That said, I have absolutely zero clue as to why the audio producers (Ferguson himself?) insisted on reading the epigrams with those silly accents. Confucius, I am quite certain, spoke no English (especially since English didn't come into existence for more than 1000 years after he died), so why even try to portray him as speaking English like Charlie Chan? Same for all the other nationalities. The French sound idiotic, the Spanish silly, and so on. I'll give a little leeway for allowing Scots to be read in their accent, but that's about it.
Normally not such a big deal, but since this book touches in part on issues of why certain civilizations have fared better than others, it smacks of provincialism, and also there's a ton of quotation that goes on.
In general I would not recommend it. This is a quirky book, quite unlike other of Niall Ferguson's efforts. He relies on the anecdotal, "I talked to a man in the streets of Istanbul..." approach of Thomas Friedman, with similar superficial impact. He devotes at least half of chapters on Science, Property, and Medicine, to discussions of various wars between West and the rest. He makes some novel and interesting observations, but they are not presented in a logical flow.
Better logical flow.
If you're listening to the Audible version, you may find the accents of the un-credited talent who mouth quotes from various people to be bizarre. Spanish, French, German, and Russian historical figures sound like Nelson Mandela. Even Siegmund Freud and Mahatma Gandhi sound like Nelson Mandela! Ferguson does a workman-like performance with the rest of the reading, but I question the decisions both to have him do the reading, and to have these other voice talents massacre their attempted accents.
Maybe, maybe not.