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Eight Eurocentric Historians 1st Edition

2.9 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1572305915
ISBN-10: 1572305916
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is a hard-hitting but infinitely justified skewering of the standard line on the 'miracle' of the West's rise to hegemony. Blaut begins with the Eurocentric racism of Max Weber vis-à-vis Islam and the Far East, and proceeds methodically down to Weber's most recent heirs, including Eric Jones and David Landes. He demonstrates his points through a close, albeit critical, reading of the works of these eight historians who have attributed Western superiority to ideology, values, capitalism, geopolitics, climate, and technological inventiveness. Blaut sets forth a powerful alternative explanation, one he promises to expand in a forthcoming third volume." --Janet Abu-Lughod, Department of Sociology, New School for Social Research

"This book is a sequel and complement to Blaut's earlier work, The Colonizer's Model of the World, in which he examined and rejected alleged European exeptionalism' and superiority based on religion, race, environment, and culture. Blaut returns to this same battlefield now. One after another, as in a shooting gallery, he not only hits but dissects and completely demolishes the ideology-dressed-up-as-theory of the eight most prominent exponents of Eurocentrism, from the now classic statement of Max Weber to its contemporary best selling versions by Jared Diamond and David Landes. A 'must' for macro sociologists and historians." --Andre Gunder Frank, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of Miami and Florida International University

"This book dissects and completely demolishes the ideology-dressed-up-as-theory of the eight most prominent exponents of Eurocentrism in world history, from the now classic statement of Max Weber to its contemporary bestselling versions by Jared Diamond and David Landes. A 'must' for macro sociologists and historians." --Andre Gunder Frank, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of Miami and Florida International University

"This is a significant work, one that is sure to be both widely read and controversial. Blaut contends with some major thinkers whose work has been relatively unchallenged. He takes strong critical positions and backs them up thoroughly." --Ronald H. Chilcote, Department of Economics, University of California, Riverside; editor of Latin American Perspectives

"This book is original...timely, well-written, and accessible. I would recommend it for capstone undergraduate history courses and for introductory graduate-level courses in world history." --Peter Gran, Department of History, Temple University, author of Beyond Eurocentrism: A New View of Modern World History

From the Back Cover

"This book is a sequel and complement to Blaut's earlier work, The Colonizer's Model of the World, in which he examined and rejected alleged European 'exeptionalism' and superiority based on religion, race, environment, and culture. Blaut returns to this same battlefield now. One after another, as in a shooting gallery, he not only hits but dissects and completely demolishes the ideology-dressed-up-as-theory of the eight most prominent exponents of Eurocentrism, from the now classic statement of Max Weber to its contemporary best selling versions by Jared Diamond and David Landes. A 'must' for macro sociologists and historians." Andre Gunder Frank, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of Miami and Florida International University
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: The Guilford Press; 1 edition (August 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572305916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572305915
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,939,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In this stimulating book,the late radical geographer J.M. Blaut criticizes the theories advanced by Max Weber, Lynn White, Robert Brenner, Eric Jones, Michael Mann, John Hall, Jared Diamond, and David Landes to explain Europe's higher level of economic development than the rest of the world in the past few centuries. The book is very well organized, with the historians who employ an incredibly eclectic mixture of the theories of the other historians discussed being covered in the later chapters. Thus, alot of "we already refuted this" and "see the discussion in chapter x" is found in the later chapters, adding to the concision and coherence of this book.

Most of the theories advanced by the "eurocentric" historians range from fairly eclectic to extremely eclectic, with David Landes (the last writer discussed in the book) simply picking from a grab bag of different theories of European [...] with no eye for coherence. Thus, in this book (around 200 pages) Blaut has to criticize a huge number of arguments. The biggest problem is that while he successfully casts doubt on almost all the specific arguments he considers, almost none of them are refuted beyond a reasonable doubt. One exception is Karl Wittfogel's theory of oriental despotism, relating systems of government to systems of irrigation (and by extension, differences in systems of government between regions being a result of the natural environment), among other things. This argument gets used in various different forms by almost all of the writers discussed, and Blaut utterly destroys it.

One of Blaut's essays deserves, particular mention, the one on Robert Brenner. This chapter is probably Blaut's greatest effort, but Robert Brenner is nowhere near as much of an easy target as the other historians discussed.
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Format: Paperback
"Eight Eurocentric Historians" by J. M. Blaut seems to be an extended de facto appendix to his main work, "The Colonizer's Model of the World", which I haven't read (yet). Blaut takes on a number of writers on world history, most of them politically right wing, and critiques their insistence that medieval and early modern Europe was uniquely fitted for science, rationality and development. One of the historians under Blaut's fire is the iconic Jared Diamond and his book "Guns, Germs and Steel" (Diamond doesn't seem conservative, though).

Unfortunately, Blaut merely asserts that China, India, and the Ottoman Empire were just as advanced as Europe until the 16th century. He never presents the concrete evidence (or purported evidence), which is apparently done in his previous work. It seems that those interested in these issues must therefore read "The Colonizer's Model of the World", while "Eight Eurocentric Historians" is mostly a kind of afterthought. On its own, this work only deserves two stars.

As for his main thesis, as I point out in my comment to M A Krul's review further below, Blaut seems to miss the fundamental difference between modernity (including modern science) and advanced culture or technology in the broad sense. Nobody in his right mind would deny that China, India or the Ottoman Empire were "advanced civilizations" (a right-wing mind is perhaps something else again).

But why did only Western Europe develop modernity, including modern science? Simply because of the bullion stolen from South and Central America? That seems implausible. Blaut seems to miss that a conceptual revolution was needed for, say, heliocentrism to arise, not simply better observatories (Muslim Iran had a pretty good observatory already during the 14th century). You can build a huge observatory with stolen gold (or honestly purchased gold, for that matter), but it takes more to challenge Aristotle or Ptolemy...
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Pretty bad. He makes a lot of mistakes and he's not even a Historian, he's a geologist.

He makes the classic mistake of mistaking riches for wealth. Blaut thinks that Europe got wealthier due to the looting of the New World's gold and silver. No, that just make them richer, causing inflation. In fact the vast riches of the New World caused Spains decline as a World Power.

Here's Jared Diamond rebuting him:
World History Connected | Vol. 2 No. 2 | Tom Laichas: A Conversation with Jared Diamond
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Format: Paperback
After reading Mr. Byars' review, I will only add that, instead of this book, on the vexing question of why Western countries have dominated the world during the last few centuries [the very way the question is posed is controversial!], I would suggest reading the following books: 1) "Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium" by Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke; 2)"The Great Divergence", by Kennetz Pomeranz; 3 - 4): "The world economy. A millennial perspective" (2001) plus "The world economy: Historical Statistics" (2003) by Angus Maddison (a combined edition of these two volumes appeared on December 2007); 5) The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation by John M. Hobson, and 6) it also seems interesting the brief book to be published this June "Why Europe? The Rise of the West in World History 1500-1850" by Jack A. Goldstone.

And for those looking for a broad framework to understand the past, I would add the following works, whose scope is amazingly global: 1. Agrarian cultures: "Pre-industrial societies" by Patricia Crone; 2. Government: "The History of Government" by S.E. Finer; 3. Ideas: "Ideas, a History from Fire to Freud", by Peter Watson; 4. Religion: "The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach" by Moojan Momen; and 5. War: "War in Human Civilization" by Azar Gat.
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