The European World Since 1815: Triumph and Transition

The European World Since 1815: Triumph and Transition

The European World Since 1815: Triumph and Transition

The European World Since 1815: Triumph and Transition

Excerpt

Europe is the smallest of the five major continents, contains less than 10 per cent of the world's land area and about 20 per cent of the world's population. In quantitative terms Europe may appear of slight importance in our global age.

The "European world," however, is more than a matter of numbers and geography. It is a concept of civilization. It includes European culture in the Western Hemisphere and also outposts of European culture in Asia, Africa, and Australasia. The history of the European world, in short, is the history of Western civilization.

As a distinctly human attribute culture is as old as man himself, but the earliest civilizations for which we have evidence apparently originated in the fourth or fifth millennium before Christ, in association with the development of settled agriculture and the domestication of animals. This occurred first in western Asia, perhaps along the "fertile crescent," the semicircle stretching from Egypt to the Anatolian highlands and down the Tigris and Euphrates valleys to the Persian Gulf. The early civilizations of Babylonia, Egypt, and probably that of the Indus valley in India, were offshoots of this "cradle of civilization." The only other known civilizations with definitely independent origins were those of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of America that evolved in the first millennium after Christ, although the origins of Chinese civilization (second or third millennium B.C.) may have been mostly independent of the original center in western Asia. All other civilizations were, in some measure, derived from these first civilizations.

As a social phenomenon, civilization grows and is transmitted by means of social processes. The growth of civilization is essentially the proliferation and elaboration of all the elements of which civilization is composed. New elements enter the stream by means of chance discovery, and even . . .

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