Civilization: Is the West History?

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Categories: History

In ‘Civilization: Is the West History?’, filmmaker Niall Ferguson asks how the Western civilization, from exhibiting an unpromising outlook in the 15th century, came to dominate the rest of the world; and if the West is about to be overtaken by the rest. This film comprises of a series of six parts and each of the six parts elucidates the main strengths of the West that made it so successful:

Competition: The first part in the series begins in 1420 when England on the eve of the Wars of the Roses seemed quite primitive by contrast to Ming China that had a credible claim to be the most advanced civilization in the world.

Science: The domination of West by East was an alarmingly plausible scenario in 1683, when the Ottoman army laid siege to Vienna, the capital of Europe’s most powerful empire; but Islam was defeated by the help of tact and Science.

Property: This part looks into the reasons as to why North America succeeded while South America for so many centuries lagged behind. It shows how the two had much in common but they differed profoundly on individual property rights, the rule of law and representative government, which eventually made all the difference.

Medicine: The fourth part shows how the French Empire consciously set out to civilize West Africa by improving public health as well as building a modern infrastructure. Yet in other European empires – notably Germany’s in southwest Africa – colonial rule led to genocide.

Consumerism: This part illustrates how the world today is becoming more homogenous and, with increasingly few exceptions, big-name brands dominate main streets, high streets and shopping malls all over the globe.

Work: The sixth element that enabled the West to dominate the rest was the work ethic, which extolled the spirit of Capitalism by working hard, saving, and accumulating capital.

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