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The Evolution of Civilizations Paperback – August 1, 1979
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"The only book that improves on and develops Toynbees work. ... The very best work of its kind I have read in a very long time."
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The book has other drawbacks, especially the explanations about linguistics, but I think they can be tolerated, after all it was written about 50 years ago. We have learned a lot since then but it's a pity that we do not see more people like Quigley; people who can write really good books on big topics without being drown in details, and people who can defend a strong framework for analyzing grand structures throughout long periods of time.
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".
Once you have this background you can venture to read something more of Quigley's to fully appreciate his insights into the real reasons behind the events from the history. Most history books collects just facts and don't give you any reasons at all or give you only the official excuses. Quigley shows you true motivations behind the events and social movements.