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How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity Hardcover – March 17, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for How the West Won

“Fortunately, a few unapologetic defenders of Western civilization can still be found. In How the West Won, Rodney Stark details how and why the vital aspects of modernity—defined here as a combination of sensible economic arrangements, political freedoms and scientific knowledge—developed in the West rather than elsewhere. In the process he adds considerably to the content of the old Western Civ courses, which would often discreetly ignore the contribution of Christianity and neglect practical matters such as advances in technology and banking.” —Wall Street Journal

“Stark’s lively and absorbing new work beheads the academy’s dictatorship of relativism and enthrones in its place concrete and fact-based understanding in order here to give Western civilization the credit it richly deserves. . . . Along the way he upsets one politically correct apple cart after another. . . . Stark’s book should have as wide an audience as possible.” Catholic World Report

“Exposes gaping holes in the prevailing narrative . . . Stark sets out to critique, and, in some instances, demolish several widespread mythologies about the West’s development. . . . In making these points, Stark is happy to engage in the deeply politically incorrect exercise of comparing developments in the West to that of other civilizations.” —Crisis

“What sets How the West Won apart from similar histories, and what makes it a sheer delight to read, is Stark’s wit, his elegant writing and, most especially, his reinterpretation of various historical events. . . . Nearly every chapter of How the West Won breaks some widely held opinion. . . . If you are looking for lively, erudite history, you’ll find How the West Won a splendid companion.” —Smoky Mountain News

Praise for Rodney Stark

“Stark has a vigorous prose style and a gift for clear explanation. The pace is swift, and the narrative thrilling.” —New York Times

“Fun to read, full of anecdote and incident . . . Mr. Stark is especially adept at challenging received ideas.” —Wall Street Journal

“Stark proves himself once again as a historical myth-buster.” —

“Rodney Stark turns what we ‘know’ about history on its head.” —Relevant Magazine

“Stimulating and provocative . . . Deftly researched.” —Publishers Weekly

“Fresh, blunt, and highly persuasive.” —Newsweek

“Gripping, with tales of courage and desperation, outsized characters, and fate of cultures hanging in the balance . . . Masterful . . . Sets the record straight.” —National Catholic Register

“Wonderfully readable prose and politically incorrect conclusions.” —World Magazine

“[Stark’s] works are an encouraging corrective to the anti-Western history routinely taught in our schools.” —New Oxford Review

“Compelling reading, adding depth and coherence to the often nebulous hyperbole of historical hypotheses. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

About the Author

Rodney Stark is the award-winning author of How the West Won, The Victory of Reason, The Rise of Christianity, God’s Battalions, and many other books. He serves as Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, where he is codirector of the Institute for Studies of Religion. Stark is past president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. Before earning his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, he was a staff writer for several major publications. Stark’s books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Turkish.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (March 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610170857
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610170857
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 189 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on February 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who has taken a history course at a university lately can attest to the rigid, doctrinaire multiculturalism taught. Textbook after textbook downplays the achievements of the west. "How the West Won" is a brisk slap in the face to the current animus against western civilization.

Take the Dark Ages, which are always portrayed as an age of utter barbarism in our textbooks, a time when society declined and all that was worthy in the ancient world vanished. Stark points out that "serious historians have known for decades that these claims are a complete fraud. Even the respectable define the Dark Ages as a myth" (p 71).

He pulls out fact after fact to prove his position. Close to Stockholm, "an elaborate industrial community known as Helgo flourished from about 250 through 700." (p 82), and archaeologists have found a "'bronze Buddha figure made in India'" (p 81) in the ruins of Helgo, revealing how wide the trade was at the time.

Not only did trade flourish, but "Within several centuries of the fall of Rome, Europeans have developed military technology that far surpassed not the the Romans' but that of every other society on earth" (p 84).

Military might was important in the era. Islam was on the rise. In 1095 "The Byzantine emperor Alexius...appealed for Western forces to defend Constantinople from the threat of Turkish invaders" (p 102). Already, the entire of North Africa, which had once been solidly Christian, had fallen to Muslim armies.

Stark asks us to "Compare Shakespeare's tragedies with those of the ancient Greeks" (p 119) For example, Oedipus is at the mercy of a blind, unfeeling fate. The ancient gods were without virtue; they were petty, vengeful, and vain.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Having recently listened to an atheist Sociologist lecture on the superiority of Godless societies - basically by comparing Jamaica to Denmark and ignoring glaring problems in his narrative, issues such as Denmark's aging population and declining birth-rate - while reading this book, I had the epiphany that Rodney Stark must be a very lonely man. It seems that by eschewing the politically correct filters and presuppositions that dominate his profession, he has come to the realization that most of his fellow scholars are not even bothering to look at facts any more. Repeatedly throughout Stark's book, we hear conventional historical "pseudo-knowledge" condemned in the strongest terms. Thus, the attempt to "impose modern notions about proper military conduct on medieval armies" is "absurd." (p. 110.) The modern narrative of the conquest of the America's as "genocide" is described as "This story is sad enough without the immense amount of misrepresentation, exaggeration and plain foolishness that has been added to it during the past century." (p. 220.) And Stark responds to the claim of "even some Catholic writers" that the Catholic church did not repudiate slavery until modern times as "Nonsense!"

And he proves his point, time and time again, with historical information and raw data.

This book largely goes over the grounds well-trod by many of Stark's prior books, but that is not a flaw. Stark has thought long and hard about these issues, and there is always something new, an insight, observation, study, fact, that simply could not have been fitted into his prior books from his encyclopedic knowledge, if those prior books were ever going to end.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Owen on April 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not Catholic but I always felt they did more positive than they get credit for. Weaved in this history of the West is a defence of the contributions of the Church. Mostly I agree with the book but do feel its a little over zealous in some of its assumptions. Saying the Church created capitalism is like saying Plato invented Christianity. Prepared the ground maybe, but not invent.
Can you find greedy Crusaiders? Of course you can! But saying they were greed driven is wrong. The book got this right. Say, who owned that land before the Muslims?
Have you noticed how willing we in the West are to apologize for preceved sins of others? Amazing what people do to feel popular ( grow a spine). Maybe we should focus on our sinless selves.
The book doesn't say the West was sinless it just brings overdue balance, with facts, to the West past and contributions.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David S. Wellhauser on April 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Prof. Stark has brought together, over a lifetime of study, a very powerful argument which is, in many ways, refreshing to read. The restoration of the West to its proper place within world history is an important enterprise and one that is beginning to be given voice to as the grip the Counter Culture has held Western Universities in for the past forty plus years begins to fade.

However, Prof. Stark often ‘overcompensates’ for the Counter Culture’s self-loathing by engaging in what might be viewed as over-stated positions [the idea that the West invented Science is not entirely with merit, but it is true if we speak of Science in its modern form] and upon more than one occasion his vitriolic language when dealing with the Counter Culture [what Prof. Stark refers to as PC/Politically Correct] is difficult to abide.

Where he is on firmer ground is demonstrating how Scholasticism was responsible for laying the foundation which made the Scientific Revolution possible. The author is even on firmer ground when he argues there was no revolution, but a natural evolution which took place over many centuries.

They go on to argue an increasingly popular position: that there was no Dark Ages. Prof. Stark contends, rightly, this was the invention of the 18th Century Enlightenment and put forward by those hostile to religion. Along with this, he argues that Empires are bad for economic and political development, especially the Roman Empire which killed innovation. Perhaps this is, also, an overstatement, but an interesting one.

One of the author’s import points was that disunity and competition among individuals and states was essential to the West’s triumph.

However, Prof. Stark does not argue that everything was good.
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