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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History as Science
Well, I can't claim to have hobnobbed with the President recently (nor would I care to do so), but I too found this book to be fascinating reading.
The great value of this work is that it goes beyond the mere "what happeneds" and "who did whats." Quigley asks the much more important and valuable question: "how." How do new...
Published on June 8, 1999

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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History as Science, June 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Evolution of Civilizations (Hardcover)
Well, I can't claim to have hobnobbed with the President recently (nor would I care to do so), but I too found this book to be fascinating reading.
The great value of this work is that it goes beyond the mere "what happeneds" and "who did whats." Quigley asks the much more important and valuable question: "how." How do new civilizations come into being? How do they change? How do they die? (And the unspoken echo: What will happen to our own civilization?)
Because he was trained as a scientist, Quigley proceeds to develop a methodological basis for answering that question of "how." He then demonstrates the soundness of that method by examining the great civilizations of history, pointing out not just the forms they took but _how_ they came to take those particular forms.
That makes this book sound pretty dry. It's not. One of the charms of Quigley's writing is his obvious impatience with what he considered to be "wrong" ideas. At some points, he's downright grumpy. Yet he never gives the impression of disagreeing from personal reasons; instead, every one of his views that he asserts as likely true is shown to be supported by the available evidence. It's actually great fun trying to guess what respected belief he'll casually demolish next. (Though it's a bit unsettling when its one's own ox being gored, as Quigley didn't play favorites. Getting the most out of this book will call for real objectivity.)
To be more specific about this work, it's one that should appeal to anyone who is more concerned with understanding systems as a whole than with how to win some short-term game or just memorize names and dates. Quigley treats history as a science: he gathers historical information, proposes a testable hypothesis about how civilizations evolve into their particular forms, and then tests this hypothesis by checking it against real civilizations. As fascinating as the details of this "seven stages of a civilization's life" model are (and his study of Western civilization is both stimulating and sobering), the real value is Quigley's insistence on treating the study of history as a science. That's the good habit Quigley tries to inculcate in the reader. It's why the subtitle of this work is "An Introduction to Historical Analysis."
Those looking to understand civilizations from a systems analysis perspective (what James Blish in his "Cities in Flight" stories called "cultural morphology") will find this book a gold mine of sound thinking, good information, startling insights, and inspirational ideas.
Footnote: Some of Quigley's other works deal with shadowy global conspiracies and the like. This work has nothing to do with the CFR, Trilateral Commission, black helicopters, or other such concerns. It's about the evolution of civilizations.
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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the bible of historical analysis., May 31, 2003
This review is from: The Evolution of Civilizations (Hardcover)
This is a history book like no others. The author developed a detailed model of civilization life cycle analysis. According to him, civilizations pass through 7 predictable stages. Typically the 7th and last stage of one civilization is the first stage of another one that is succeeding the first dying civilization.
Using his model, he analyzes in detail the life cycle of several major civilizations, including: the Mesopotamian, Minoan, Classical, Russian, and Western.
Reading this book almost feels like uncovering a manuscript of secret knowledge. Although I have read quite a bit on this subject, other historians and authors rarely refer to Quigley. Yet, I feel that he is the giant within his field of historical analysis. And, that his model could serve well in better understanding current affairs.
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Driving forces of society�s development, November 19, 2001
This review is from: The Evolution of Civilizations (Hardcover)
This is a striking book. When one is past the formative years, it rarely happens that a single book can substantially change one's view of the world. For me the "Evolution of Civilizations" influenced my understanding of history more than anything I've read in many years.
The most important author's contribution to historical analysis is identification of the growth mechanism - "instrument of expansion", which can be quite different in different civilizations. It must include two necessary conditions - generation of surplus output, and its investment in productive economic activities. Later, this "instrument of expansion" becomes institutionalized, when surplus is spent on maintenance of status quo of ruling elites and various vested interests, and a society enters "Age of Conflict".
One of the distinctions, which Quigley attributes uniquely to the Western civilization, is that it passed through the "Age of Expansion" and reached the "Age of Conflict" three times in its history. First - during Middle Ages (he specifically puts dates 970-1270) with the feudalism as an instrument of expansion, which became institutionalized as chivalry and municipal mercantilism. The second period is the Renaissance era (1440-1630), with the commercial capitalism as instrument of expansion, which ended in the "Age of conflict" of the brutal Thirty Years War, absolutism, and state mercantilism of the emerging nation-states. The third "Age of Expansion" is associated with the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the second half of the 18-th century. It had the industrial capitalism as an instrument of expansion, which became institutionalized in the monopolistic capitalism and imperialism.
Quigley puts the end of the third "Age of Expansion" specifically in 1929, with the Wall Street crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. This is an americentric view; in fact the process of institutionalization and monopolistic excesses can be traced to late 19-th century, and by early 20-th century they were plainly evident. Western economies still expanded, but financial crashes, increasing in frequency and magnitude, underlined new fragility due to the exhaustion of the expansionary mechanism. In this sense the WWI was a typical "Age of Conflict" war, similar to the Hundred Years War and the Thirty Years War of the previous "Ages of Conflict" in Europe - not a clash of civilizations, or the conflict between the old and the new. Instead it was pointless, horrible slaughter underlying the conflict between vested interests of various elites and countries belonging to one civilization, and largely devoid of irreconcilable ideological differences.
Yet, contrary to the author, it is unlikely that the Western civilization is unique in this sense. The ascendance of every civilization includes several distinct stages. In fact it is more historically consistent to talk about the probability of the civilization's survival after a period of crisis, brought by institutionalization of the "instrument of expansion" and solidifying status quo. One can argue, for example, that the Islamic civilization experienced at least two distinct "ages of expansion" - the first centered at times of Abbasid Caliphate, the second - during the ascent of the Ottoman Empire, in 14-16th centuries.
In the case of Orthodox Christian (i.e. Russian) civilization Quigley puts the "Age of Expansion" in the interval 1500-1900, and then - a new one beginning with the Soviet era. In fact, just like Western civilization, the Orthodox one experienced three very distinct stages of expansion before 20th century. The first one was Kievan Rus, which flourished along the North-South trading routes between the Baltic and Black seas (hence the duality of the most important cities - Kiev in the south and Novgorod in the north), which entered the "Age of Conflict" near the end of 12-th century and was conquered by Mongol invasion. The next period of expansion probably began around 1350 (its first show of strength was the victory over Mongols in Kulikovo Pole in 1380) and was centered around Moscow. It lasted probably until institutionalization of the part of the boyar elites loyal to Ivan IV (Grozny), around 1560. Its instrument of expansion was oriental-style autocracy, based on the ideas of civil and military administration borrowed from China, Golden Horde and Islamic countries. The subsequent "Age of Conflict" included terrible repressions of later-stage Grozny period, "Time of Troubles" in early 17-th century, and early period of the Romanov dynasty. The next stage began with Peter the Great, and was associated with St. Petersburg period. Its instrument of expansion was European-style absolutism, with westernizing aristocratic elite and bonded peasantry. It reached its zenith around 1815 with the victory over Napoleon, and began to stagnate around 1830.
I would argue that Quiglean interpretation of the subsequent period included unsuccessful attempt at the new instrument of expansion (western-borrowed industrial capitalism) in late the 19-th and early 20-th century, which was aborted and instead a new civilization was born. This socialist (or atheistic) civilization rapidly expanded to about the third of the globe and exerted strong influence on the western world. Its "instrument of expansion" included Communist party as an organization responsible for investing economic surplus (which later became institutionalized in "nomenclatura") and social engineering, which allowed rapid industrialization and development of education and health care. It reached its zenith in victory over Hitler, launch of the Sputnik and Gagarin's flight. This civilization entered its first "Age of Conflict" around 1965, apparent in progressing economic stagnation, intra-civilizational tensions with China (including a small war in 1969), one of the first manifestations of its crisis was defeat in the Moon landing race. Soviet regime collapsed around 1990, but the civilization did not, which is evident in strong economic performance in China throughout 90-s (which can be viewed as Quiglean "geographic circumvention") and the fact that Russia, despite some religious revival, remained overwhelmingly secular and didn't revert to many previous monarchic and religious traditions. After a period of painful reforms it will have the potential for the new "Age of Expansion", probably based on some western and some of its own ideas.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tools for analyzing history and just about everything else, April 21, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Evolution of Civilizations (Hardcover)
This is a fascinating book and definitely worth the time and money. In the beginning of the book, Quigley makes the case for the introduction of the scientific method to the social sciences. As a matter of fact, the first 170 pages of the book lays the rationale behind and need for analytical tools to study history. He states that the alternative would be just the presentation of facts with no explanation for what is actually happening. One needs to know what is happening to be able to determine which facts to present, which requires analytical tools. The first 170 pages also deal with distinctions between societies and civilizations, as well as between parasitic and productive societies. He defines civilizations as producing societies with an instrument of expansion
He then states that civilizations proceed through the following stages:
1. Mixture - different societies come into contact and produce a society with an outlook different from any of the parts.
2. Gestation - the period of time between the mixing of the different societies and the expansion of the civilization.
3. Expansion - the surplus generated by the society is invested in activities that benefit the civilization. This can include an increase in knowledge, increase in area, technological advancements that increase efficiency, etc. Civilizations have different instruments of expansion. He calls a social organization or unit an instrument if it meets social needs.
4. Age of Conflict - The rate of increase using the social instrument slows down which brings interesting times. The instrument can be reformed or a new instrument consistent with the civilization's outlook can circumvent the old instrument. If reform is achieved, a new age of expansion begins. If the vested interests of the previous instument of expansion increasingly consume resources while serving no social needs, Quigley says that the instrument has then become an institution. Expansion can continue, but it is at the expense of neighbors, which leads to imperialist wars. When the vested interests have crushed all internal opposition, the next stage appears.
5. Universal Empire - typically a state or politcal unit on the peripheral of the civilization gains power over the whole civilization. The illusion of a golden age appears. The social organization remains stagnant.
6. Decay - lack of belief in the civilization's outlook or inability to meet needs of the people leads to people opting out of the system.
7. Invasion - external forces disrupt the civilization's social organization and it is unable or unwilling to defend itself. That spells the end of the civilization.
The civilizations that he analyzes are the following: Mesopotamian, Caananite and Minoan, Classical, and Western. His examples are excellent as is his analysis. I particularly liked his example of the the Pythagorian rationalists love for rationality went beyond their love for the truth, as a disciple of Pythagoras proved the irrationality of reality using the Pythagorean theorem. We have that lot to blame for discrediting the scientific method for about two thousand years!
A very enjoyable read!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, April 26, 2000
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I read this book two years ago, but would like to re-read it again, because it was such a joy to read. I regard Professor Quigley as one of the best thinkers of the 20th century, comparable to only few. This brilliant book is about rise and fall of different civilizations. He is arguing that there are certain commonalties and similar stages in development of every civilization, including inevitable decline. He is an archetypal strategic thinker. But he is a level above of the majority of petty-minded so-called "geo-political" thinkers and strategists. His approach to history is dialectical, but much better grounded in human nature and more scientific than works of Karl Marx. He is not sharing Marx's primitive economic determinism. He uses a simple language, but goes deep. He is knowledgeable, wise, and entertaining. A must read to everyone interested in history, military strategic theories and thought-provoking read.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This helped form President Clinton's thinking about history., July 9, 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: The Evolution of Civilizations (Hardcover)
President Clinton took Professor Carroll Quigley's freshman history course on "The Evolution of Civilizations," for which this book was the required text. No one who ever experienced Quigley in the classroom ever can forget him. He was akin to Robin Williams in "The Dead Poets Society." Quigley provided a framework for understanding history as "everything that has happened to this moment that is worth remembering." Everything else to him was "mere antiquarianism." What is "worth remembering" at any given moment changes from time to time. One of Quigley's favorite lecture techniques was to take the morning paper and show how an understanding of the underlying history clarifies each headline. For example, were Quigley alive today, he would point to an article on Bosnia and ask his freshmen to explain Balkan history. Heaven help them if they failed to mention the Battle of Kosovo in the 1380's, the key to understanding all Balkan history since! At a White House function on the morning of 9 July 1996, I mentioned to the President that, for summer reading, I was re-reading Carroll Quigley's writings. "That's funny you should mention that," replied the President, "as I was reading him last night!"
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History through a Scientist's Eyes, May 5, 2008
By 
Kenneth J. Dillon (Washington, D.C. USA) - See all my reviews
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I am a professional historian and one-time student of Carroll Quigley. Rereading "The Evolution of Civilizations" after 40 years, I heard his voice speaking across time and felt once again the uncanny penetration of his analytical mind. I suppose that he was the most remarkable person I have ever met.
This book makes a major contribution to the study of civilizations, previously the preserve of writers of a literary or philosophical bent. Quigley was through and through a scientist who strove to analyze the rise and fall of civilizations and develop explanations of their dynamics that went well beyond the descriptive treatments of Toynbee and others.
Quigley's seven stages of the rise and fall of civilizations, his six dimensions of analysis (military, political, economic, social, religious, and intellectual), and his application of the concept of institutionalization of once-productive "instruments" of society to explaining the stages of Expansion and Conflict are superior to any competing framework of analysis I have encountered. They deserve careful scrutiny for what they can tell us about the interaction of civilizations in our globalizing world.
I found especially interesting Quigley's analysis of how climate change shaped prehistorical population movements, his discussion of the philosophical struggles of classical antiquity, and his explanation of the economic factors driving European expansion and conflict.
That this book has never received much attention from professional historians should not surprise us. Quigley was operating in a mode that led him to diverge from the mainstream and to upset more than a few specialists.
While this book certainly contains high value for students of world history, its teachings can be applied in other fields as well. I have found the analytical techniques and the explanation of science and epistemology in this book repeatedly fruitful in my own historical, scientific, and criminal detective work.
For more on Quigley, try a Google or Yahoo search under "Carroll Quigley: Theorist of Civilizations".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before "Guns, Germs and Steel"..., December 12, 2009
By 
Bruce Kinsey (Shenandoah Valley, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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Read Quigley's "The Evolution of Civilizations" carefully and you'll come away with new ways of thinking about the PROCESSES of history, and of approaching historical analysis and contemporary societal problems.

Well before Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" Carroll Quigley was teaching Ancient History to young students at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He was not only a brilliant researcher, analyst, writer and lecturer on history and historical processes, but also a gifted instructor, who left his students with a memorable set of frameworks, tools, stories, examples and anecdotes that many carry with them for the rest of their lives. It's this latter quality that undoubtedly led President Clinton to name Quigley as one of the three people who most influenced his thinking... though I'm afraid Bill forgot a lot. (Another Clinton favorite, the late Professor Walter Giles, also taught at the School of Foreign Service.)

Even Quigley's tests were memorable. What other history prof, for example, would challenge his students as follows: "Imagine you are in the Athenian forum on a marketday morning in 450 BC. Look around you and tell me what you see.")

You've gotta love an instructor that good.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Education of an Historian, September 30, 2001
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I simply want to say that "The Evolution of Civilizations is the first book any prospective historian should read. The book simply is an educational tool not so much of history, (Though it is full of History.) as it is a teaching of the scientific method of historical information gathering. Useing the concepts taught in this book will prepare the future and current history student or historian to properly examine History and will actually help you predict future history.
This book will offer insights into the past that can quite possibly change the way you view the world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - a milestone in philosophy, February 6, 2010
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Perhaps one the most important, yet little known, events in human history was the denigration of Aristotelian philosophy. While this event took centuries to complete, it reached its final completion in the late 1950s early 60s. With this went the teaching of the Philosophia Perennis, the study of real truth, reason and logic as applied to wisdom. Perennial Philosophy was traditionally comprised of the seven spheres of knowledge, logic, rhetoric, math, etc. Part of the reason for The Philosophy's demise, I believe, was for centuries nobody had found a way of judging history that fit in with the system, thus protecting it from modernistic Idealism. One of many tactics opponents used to make the system obsolete was advancing the notion that history cannot be judged, it has no 'story' underneath to anchor truth: there is no truth - history is written by the winners - all truths are just cultural, etc.

In this work, Carroll Quigley has successfully found and supported what I believe is a legitimate 'eighth sphere', a means of assessing history according to Aristotelian standards. This is no small feat. Had this book been written in any other point of history, Quigley would have been heralded as one of the great philosophers. But alas, he wrote this book precisely at the very moment when The Philosophy was breathing its last.

If you are dismayed at the direction of modern society, take time and find the collected works of Fr. Celestine Biddle, read them, and then take in the fine wine of this book and see how society might have been had Quigley showed up sooner.
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The Evolution of Civilizations
The Evolution of Civilizations by Carroll Quigley (Hardcover - August 1, 1979)
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