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on March 6, 2017
I don't think I've ever written a review on Amazon before, but this book is worth it. I bought it originally as an audio book and loved it so much, I wanted to see the references he used. I've listened to it over and over because there's so much information that I get something more every time I read it. He tells the story well. I had never heard of Rodney Stark, but based on this book, I'll be buying his others.
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VINE VOICEon February 19, 2014
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.

But Christianity imbued western culture with a belief in conscience. "It created a tendency for people not to be resigned to things as they are but rather to attempt to make the situation better" (119). It also meant an absolute truth existed, and could be rationally sought.

Christianity pushed society to abolish slavery, that economic pillar of the ancient world. Even though the west had inherited a civilization from ancient Rome that was based on slavery, by the end of the eighth century Charlemagne opposed slavery, as did the pope. Within a century it was generally agreed upon Christian principle that slavery was against divine law.

Although Max Weber claimed Protestantism invented capitalism, Stark points out that, rather, "The rise of capitalism in Europe proceeded the Reformation by centuries" (p 129).

The key to western civilization was the belief in the rationality of God. During the Middle Ages, the church created universities, and paid for priests to take classes. "The first university was founded in... 1088" (p 163). "By 1200...the University of Paris...had 2,550 to 5,000 students" (p 166).

One result was science - long before the Enlightenment. "Just as...eighteenth-century philosophers invented...the 'Dark Ages' to discredit Christianity, they labeled their own era the 'Enlightenment' on grounds that religious darkness had finally been dispelled by secular humanism" (p 309).

I loved how Stark acidly noted how not even one of these 'Enlightened' men, such as Voltaire, had anything to do with science. No, the people who were "scientific stars were members of the clergy, nine of them Roman Catholics" (p 309).

You really need this book! Stark is a marvelous writer, brisk and fun to read. But it is his ideas which are important. He argues brilliantly, and persuasively, that western civilization, so maligned in our current culture, is worthy of regard.
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on October 20, 2017
The book provides a short history of Western Civilization while shattering fairly common myths and stereotypes regarding the Roman period, the middle ages and the Enlightenment.

A bit shallow, focused only on positive aspects, but a healthy read nonetheless in this age of political correctness, highlighting the achievements of Western civilization, from the abolition of slavery (2 times), moral and scientific progress all the way up to capitalism and the industrial revolution.

Know that this book is heavily based on previous works from the same author and offers little new information so you might want to skip it if you already read Bearing False Witness or some of the other books by Stark.
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on July 22, 2016
Stark once again attempts to set the record straight with regard to Europe and its colonies. He jousts with multiple opposing historians per chapter and is persuasively able to sustain nearly all of his points with the relevant and often neglected evidences. Stark seems most comfortable asserting the common sense but politically incorrect idea that not all cultures and societies are equal and then explicating what were the primary difference makers instead of running to self-flagellating, xenophilic progressive tropes. Relentlessly honest and willing to dig into uncomfortable data that has been systematically ignored or edited out, How the West was Won is a must read for anyone who wants the neglected other half of first world history that isn't the common, simplistic, myopic exploitation "explanation" alone.
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on March 13, 2017
A must read book. Well researched and documented as well as well written. Stark takes on many 'modern myths' and 'accepted beliefs' and dashes them against facts.
A very enlightening book.
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on February 18, 2016
What an inspiring book! Though Stark slogs through many details of history, his careful attention to the timing of inventions, scientific discoveries, etc., confirms his premise that there was no Dark Ages, no unexplainable scientific explosion. That since Christ has come and established His church, there has been a steady progress, increasing light, and better understanding of reality through the centuries. There have been many accusers of the church, and evil attacks against those who love Christ Jesus. But the true church always increases, always remains despite people's mistakes and false doctrinal counterfeits.
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on November 1, 2014
A very interesting read. I have read other books and articles, that, for me confirm a fair amount of what I read here of our past. It does indict our public schools for teaching us so much of what think we should know, but certainly not the way it truly was. It's possible to say he's all wrong, or even that you just don't believe this is how our history developed, but, you do have to admit that what you think you know of our past definitely impacts our we think of our present and how we live. Our world view drives us in what we think and how we live our lives. What we think of history will help form our world view.
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on May 26, 2014
Hi there.
Thank you so much.The book arrived in perfect condition even earlier than expected.I'm in the mid of it, and do not want to read it too quickly, because it is so interesting. I even read some chapters again. It's about a subject that has always fascinated me. Why capitalism developed in the west Europe? I've read some comments about other books on the subject, mostly in The Economist, but have never had a chance to have a book on it in my hands. Being a mechanical engineer with a education in economics too, sorry if that sounds too pretentious, I have very wide range of interests. Fragile by design is another example of a different and original view on a topic. Once I'm done with these two, I'll order something else. Thank you for being there and for providing a possibility to read part of a book, so one can figure out if to buy it.
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on April 11, 2017
Awesome history where we came from. How we came to be so successful. Lots of references to original documents.
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on December 24, 2015
Stark assembles and correlates a vast amount of history in a very concise (though lengthy), accessible treatise. Regrettably, those who would benefit most are least likely to invest the time and energy.

Indeed, those who have drunk the contemporary Kool Aid will likely dismiss many (if not most) of Stark's documented points and conclusions as ridiculous, if not stupid. Doing so is just too easy, and their catch-phrases are probably already well practiced.

I recommend this book highly to all inquiring readers.
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