Paul Edward Hutton, Suzanne Marchand, and Deborah Harkness. Many Europes: Choice and Chance in Western Civilization

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Paul Edward Hutton, Suzanne Marchand, and Deborah Harkness. Many Europes: Choice and Chance in Western Civilization. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014. Pp. xxxi + 865. Cloth, $40.47; ISBN 978-0-07-338545-7.

The new Western Civilization textbook by Hutton, Marchand, and Harkness is a vast improvement over many textbooks today. The authors tackle difficult subjects with ease and clarity and provide the reader with examples, illustrations, and maps that would otherwise make topics dense and untenable. The colorful format is easy to read and its price of less than $50, along with E-book and paperback options, certainly makes it affordable on a typical college student's budget. The title, however, is the most interesting aspect of all. Throughout history, Western Civilization and Europe have undergone so many changes as to be almost unrecognizable from the previous centuries. Furthermore, there was never a single Europe of one people, language, religion, or region, each of which fought against each other for survival and dominance. Many Europes: Choice and Chance in Western Civilization highlights these changes as well as the role of humans and fate in making Europe the continent we currently know. They state "Diversity not unity, nations not empires, explain a great deal about the energy and dynamism of the history we study in Western civilization courses" (xxii).

The student is first introduced to Western Civilization with a look at the prehistory of the continent and surrounding areas. The emphasis placed on the creation of written languages (a key concept in the development of civilization) serves to introduce to the student the difference between pre-literate and literate societies. The team of authors highlights the advantages of a written language versus an oral culture as well as the emergence of cities, empires, and dynasties. The history of the beginnings of Western Civilization is often a difficult topic for students to grasp and understand, an issue which is addressed and partially solved by the clarity and in-depth discussion provided by the text. These, and other difficult topics, are addressed in such a manner that students will actually want to read this textbook. The authors provide vignettes throughout the text about various episodes related to the topic. For example, they devote a page to the private life of Charlemagne or Luther's Ninety-Five Theses to show students exactly what he argued in his early years and why it caused such heated debate. …