This is compelling in much the same was as Jared Diamond's book, which this book is, in part, a response to. The ideas are interesting and well-arranged. Ferguson's enthusiasms are infectious; they also make his reading good. The performance loses a star because the accents for quotations are sometimes pretty poorly done.
This was the first title of Ferguson's that I've finished. I thought I would like his ideas more because I learned of him through Dambisa Moyo's 'Dead Aid'.
Ultimately I found that Ferguson goes against anti-imperialist thought so strongly that he barely mentions that elements of the six "killer apps" that lead the West to succeed over "the Rest" were partly due to the immense wealth gained by western powers from their empires. I know I give myself away as a more left-leaning person with this review, but I expected this to be more even-handed than it was. His swipes against Marx and general Communism were more heavy-handed than his dealings with Hitler and the fascist leaders of history. This may be due to the way that Hitler has been described to death already, everywhere else, but it just seemed bizarre to have such heavy disdain in odd places.
Other than showing his biases too strongly at times, Ferguson does write well, and he deals with the topic of the rise of the West, just as the subtitle says he will. I'll probably listen to another, but I'll beware of his pro-imperial tendency.
I agree with the overall premise of the book, and even the conclusions, but the book itself is so meandering and rambling it is a struggle to get through it. Most of the time I found myself asking, "What does this historical story or anecdote have to do with the chapter or the point he is trying to make?" He relays many historical events, which might be very interesting in their own rights, but they seem to rarely have any relevance to the subject matter at hand! Look for the Rodney Stark book on the rise and success of the West...it is much, much better.
After listening to this book, I have decided to become a Tailor and take over the world! I too at one time wore blue jeans.
Ferguson delivers on laying out the ugliness of what Western Civilization has done, from slavery to genocide to Nazism. He clearly points to factors that have given Western Civilization an edge. Often by willingly or unwillingly accepting diversity without denying its own cultural heritage. I would love to see a follow up in light of recent events.
Exceeded my expectations. Even though it confirmed my expectation of American collapse, it was enlightening. I highly recommend this book.
Fascinating overview of the contributing factors to the rise - and potential fall of western civilization. I found the influence of the Protestant work ethic - and the impact on saving - particularly enlightening. The impact of mechanization in clothing manufacture was interesting as well. Certainly mind expanding.
Though not immune to criticism - what non-fiction work is not - but critical reading for one that studies or want to learn of a history of civilization & some thought provoking insight into the possible future of the current systems of civilization.
The entirety of civilization is a big project and as such it is well done. The performance is where I take issue. In the main, it is well done. Any asides are done in a vaguely racist accent. It is a distraction and reminds me that the the perspective is decidedly western and in being such, it feels like the kind slant on the telling my uncle would have made in 1975. Feels out of place today in a way it wouldn't have but for the performances.
I would recommend. I bought this after a visit to Great Britain. It scratched that itch. Carry a length of rope to bite during the ethnically specific quotes.
He is pleasant.
Seriously. Just read the quotes in your normal lovely voice.
This is my first read of a book by Niall. He certainty has a wide knowledge of history and other social sciences as evidenced by the countless anecdotes and references to historical events from all over the world. His research and analysis is truly insightful and most of it could be seen as supporting his thesis of why the West has dominated the world, although he strays quite a bit from his 6 principles of the west's success and flow of arguments could be better assembled.
I am far from knowledgeable on the history of the world, but find the subject fascinating. Hence my reservations about the thesis is the viewpoint from Niall's apparent British background. Niall portrays an overt dedication, infatuation and awe for the success of the British society (i.e civlization) and liberal criticism of others. He seems almost like a cheerleader for the Empire and raises my doubts on his objectiveness of his presentation (British slavery was bad but others did it too). It would interesting to read a counter point to his interpretation how the western world evolved to its predominance.
As noted by others, he erred in bringing in the annoying the 'other' voices who try to speak english with various accents. This occurs frequently and actually detracts from the narrative rather than helping it.
Being a native of a country with a British tradition, I find myself lucky to have benefited from the British influence of the country and I did enjoy reading Niall's arguments and trip through history. Despite my criticism, it is a well researched book.