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need book suggestions for western civilization history class

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Showing 1-21 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 7, 2012 1:39:15 PM PDT
labwalker says:
Hello all, I'd like recommendations or suggestions for books or a type of book dealing with the history of western civilization. Have to write a book review and some questions to answer about 'the book' are - is the book important, should others read it, how the book fits into history and is it relevant. I don't want to go past late 1600s-early 1700, though. Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 10:22:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 8, 2012 10:23:34 PM PDT
What year of education are you in? IOW, what's the class level? Also, is the intent that you choose an historically important book, or a book about the history of western civilization?

Just to throw an idea out there, you might want to check out

Civilization: The West and the Rest

although it goes beyond the period you specified.

If you're more interested the history of Western ideas, you might like

A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age

Do you have any particular interests or preferences?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 10:27:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 8, 2012 10:48:14 PM PDT
nameinuse says:
The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.

Recommended by Albert Einstein apparently, but it was a req'd reading for a philosophy course I took in college in the 80s.

'A precious book!.a work that is in the highest degree pedagogical which stands above the conflicts of parties and opinion' -- Albert Einstein

But I'm not clear on what you want...a book that covers that time or is from that time?

Like from that time frame, I'd go with something pretty simple and straightforward, like oh, Machiavelli's The Prince. That'd be pretty easy peasy for relevance and historical significance (and bonus) it's super short.

Posted on Jun 8, 2012 11:13:45 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
If you count the Americas as part of Western Civilization, the best book ever of early American civilization (i.e., the American Indians before Europeans came and destroyed them) is:

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2012 8:13:16 PM PDT
labwalker says:
not sure what you mean by what year of education but it is a college class, last one needed for the 2-year associates. the book chosen could be historically important but I'd have to say why, so either choice could work from your first statement.
My interest in taking the class in the first place was to find out how religion got the way it is today, how much bearing the past had on it, but I'm not sure a book about that will be approved. but the professor just said it had to be a book about western civilization history.
and thanks for the book idea - I'm going to go check it out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2012 8:29:47 PM PDT
labwalker says:
a book that covers that time. the class will cover from the paleolithics to England and the emergence of monarchy. relevant to the period and the region the instructor says. nonfiction.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 11:50:07 AM PDT
R. Largess says:
You might want to look at William McNeill's "The Rise of the West; A History of the Human Community". Goes back to 1963, but a ground-breaker and in print ever since. It sounds like exactly what you're looking for. It's clear, logical, easy to understand - and important!

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 2:54:03 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:
May I suggest that you not try something too deep. I recall that when I was an undergrad history major (early '60s), my Western Civ prof just told us to find a book and read it. Good Grief! I finally wound up with a bio of some French monarch. Yuk and double yuk.
There are many books out there that don't assume that you are in grad school or beyond.

A suggestion or two:

Galileo by James Reston
The Ancient Mariners by Lionel Casson.
The Pheonicians by Gerhard Herm


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 3:20:05 PM PDT
R. Largess says:
Don - You might have a point. And the Ancient Mariners is a fantastic book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 3:32:15 PM PDT
L. King says:
The Age of Voltaire: A History of Civilization in Western Europe from 1715 to 1756, With Special Emphasis on the Conflict Between Religion and Philosophy (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 9) by Will and Ariel Durant might seem to fit your requirements, or look at other books that the Durants wrote. I'm afraid I only know of the books by reputation. If you think of the books as too dated, why not analyze one in terms of what it says and then analyze it in terms of contemporary sensibilities.

They're available in kindle editions.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 6:25:44 PM PDT
labwalker says:
Thank you all so much for the recs!! I've researched three that sound like ones I'd like to read regardless if it was for a class, so those are my choices which are the voltaire one, the ancient mariners and the spinoza one. Hopefully one will be approved. and good advice on something not too deep D. Brittain. the Machiavelli's prince one looked interesting, too, but that might have to wait til after the course.
Again - Thank you!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 10, 2012 7:08:45 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:
R. Largess,

Ancient Mariners has long been a favorite, ever since I got my copy back about '66. I was teaching High School World History in those days. Great stuff.


Posted on Jun 10, 2012 9:53:25 PM PDT
Rachel says:
I would suggest something different; The story of writing. Without writing there is no history.The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, & Pictograms, Second Edition


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 7:55:29 AM PDT
R. Largess says:
Yes, Ancient Mariners not only answered my questions but was vivid, well-written, and really brought those ancient people alive.

Posted on Jun 11, 2012 9:11:12 AM PDT
Dichterliebe says:
I'd recommend Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. Certainly beyond the scope of your request but there's much here that falls within the OP. The author is a Scot and has his biases but his conclusions are tough to refute.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 5:01:52 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:
Try Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt (Newly Revised and Updated) by Barbara Mertz.


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 6:29:53 PM PDT
Rachel says:
Hi Don;

Thank you.
Why7 is it that we have lost contact?
All is well with me.
I hope all is the same with you or better.
You gave me your e mail and I wrote you why have I not had an answer.
I did and do love talking to you.


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 4:49:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012 7:12:12 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:
I, too, enjoyed our chats. I learned a great deal about Judaism, which I found interesting.
I saw somewhere that you finished your Ph.D. So, I guess I will refer to you as Dr. Rachel.....

Since we last talked, I have published my magnum opus, War and Trade Along the Santa Fe Trail, 1803-1848. Go to Amazon and check it out. And then buy it. (That goes for everyone on this chat line...)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 6:42:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012 6:43:24 PM PDT
Rachel says:
Thank you again for the e mail. Erase it. I have it again and I will try just now.

Virtual hugs,

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 7:13:20 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Virtual hugs to you too!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 7:26:27 PM PDT
D. Brittain says:
L. King,

I have read several of the Durant histories. They are quite good. No, they are excellent!
I have known Ph.D. historians who swear by them. Many if not most of those who sniff at the Durant histories are pseudo-intellectuals at best and uneducated clowns at worst. Why, I have no idea.
I read my first Durant -- The Life of Greece when I was an undergrad. Been hooked ever since.

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This discussion

Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  9
Total posts:  21
Initial post:  Jun 7, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 12, 2012

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