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Civilization: The West and the Rest Audiobook, by Niall Ferguson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Niall Ferguson Narrator: Niall Ferguson Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2011 ISBN: 9781400184996
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The ascent of Western civilization to worldwide domination is a historical phenomenon unequaled in significance during the past 500 years. Throughout the globe, increasing numbers of people play Western sports, elect Western-style governments, attend Western-style universities, and take Western medicine. Looking back 600 years, however, we find that the kingdoms of Western Europe looked more like trivial backwaters, consumed by constant plaque and warfare. Ottoman Turkey and Ming China were the pinnacle of global civilizations. How was it that these great Eastern empires were overtaken by the backwards West? Is the height of Western influence now behind us?

In Civilization: The West and the Rest, renowned historian Niall Ferguson maintains that, starting in the 15th century, the West introduced six important new ideas that the Rest were still lacking: consumerism, rule of law, science, competition, modern medicine and the work ethic. It was these ‘killer apps’ that enabled the West to jump out ahead of the Rest, developing representative government, capitalizing on new scientific breakthroughs, bringing about the industrial revolution, increasing life expectancy, establishing global trade routes, and experiencing unprecedented increases in human productivity. Ferguson explains specifically how twelve Western empires grew to control 60% of the world’s population, and 80% of the global economy.

In the 21st century, according to Ferguson, Western influence is bound to decline as the Rest have finally installed the killer apps that the enabled the West to achieve its dominance, while the West is literally losing faith in itself.

Marking the ebb and flow of governments along with the clashes of cultures, Ferguson recalls global history with humor and intensity. Well reasoned and populated by compelling characters, Civilization is arguably Ferguson’s greatest work.

Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed?

In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic. These were the "killer applications" that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic. Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.

Yet now, Ferguson argues, the days of Western predominance are numbered—not because of clashes with rival civilizations, but simply because the Rest have now downloaded the six killer apps we once monopolized—while the West has literally lost faith in itself.

Civilization does more than tell the gripping story of the West's slow rise and sudden demise; it also explains world history with verve, clarity, and wit. Controversial but cogent and compelling, Civilization is Ferguson at his very best. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Mr. Ferguson tells his story with characteristic verve and an eye for the felicitous phrase.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • Thought-provoking and possibly controversial. Library Journal
  • “A dazzling history of Western ideas.”

    Economist (London)

  • “Written with vitality and verve…A tour de force.”

    Boston Globe

Listener Reviews

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  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Iain | 2/19/2014

    " I found this a rather dry read, I was reading it just ahead of watching it on the BBC and the author's dry presentation appears to be both a written and a verbal thing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sam | 2/10/2014

    " Why did Western, i.e. European, civilization come to dominate the world for most of the past five hundred years? And can that dominance be taken for granted? Ferguson takes a hard look at why civilizations rise and fall. Big-picture history, full of eyebrow-raising facts and insights. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 1/12/2014

    " In the end, a readable repackaging of Weber's "Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan | 1/3/2014

    " Terrible desire to use "app" as a means to connect with pop culture as part of his discourse. Other than that it was pretty good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert | 11/12/2013

    " Probably a 4.5 if I had the choice because it is tedious at points (the purpose of skim reading). But brillian nuggets throughout. My 2nd Ferguson that I have read, and better (Ascent of Money). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gerald | 10/19/2013

    " Regardless of your political position or the extent of your agreement with the author's values, the read will make you consider the facts of history and their predictions for the future. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 8/16/2013

    " Excellent job of explaining why the West has become predominant over the rest of the world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 1/5/2013

    " My dad recommended that I read this book. I initially thought it would be a rather boring, dry read (as I am not a history buff) anyway I was pleasantly surprised to find it an engaging read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 *Redacted* | 11/24/2012

    " Interesting look into the rise of Western Civilization. Not exceptional but interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 David | 11/24/2012

    " This is almost certainly the best non-fiction book published by a historian named Niall Ferguson in 2011. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark | 10/21/2012

    " Opinionated, makes some good points, perhaps at the expense of gliding over some of the darker aspects of Western European colonization of the Americas, Asia and Africa. Found the glib references to "killer apps" a bit annoying. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brandon | 9/25/2012

    " Ferguson manages to walk the line between easy to understand "survey" and meaningful insight as only he can. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kamran | 6/3/2012

    " An interesting view of what allowed the west to sail ahead of everyone else. The author breaks it down to 6 "killer apps". I don't agree with all his arguments but it is an interesting thesis nonetheless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 5/6/2012

    " Another book for my new fascination of the downfall of society. This one is less about finances, more about how western civilization rose to dominance. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tina | 3/19/2012

    " I never thought I would be reading the same book as Karl Rove! But, Fareed Zakaria recommended it as a "fascinating and controversial read," so I'm curious. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erika | 10/24/2011

    " I'm never going to finish this book...too much info for bedtime reading. I'd need a library carol to even have a chance. "

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is one of Britain’s most renowned historians. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a senior research fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He is the author of numerous books, including The Ascent of Money, a New York Times bestseller. His Kissinger, a feature-length film based on his interviews with Henry Kissinger, won the 2011 New York Film Festival prize for best documentary. His many other prizes and awards include the Benjamin Franklin Prize for Public Service, the Hayek Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and the Ludwig Erhard Prize for Economic Journalism.