Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Matthew Melko: He Kept the Candlelight Aglow Ever Brighter

Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Matthew Melko: He Kept the Candlelight Aglow Ever Brighter

Article excerpt

The onset of the 21st century was a period of hope and despair for the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilization (ISCSC). The despair arose as a result of a few of its luminary scholars departed in death while its prospects for rejuvenation were getting brighter. One of its luminaries who always kept the intellectual fire burning and the candlelight of scholarship aglow was Matthew Melko. Unfortunately, he too is no longer with us since his death in 2010.

During the Society's 2005 annual conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, Lee Snyder, then President of the Society, but now he too is no longer with us, in his presidential address to the Society stated: "I see us as heirs of the tradition started by Spengler, and continued by Sorokin, Toynbee, Quigley, Melko and others."

Snyder's testimonial to the effect that Melko stood with the giants in his penetrating methodology on comparing civilizations was accurate to the point, as can be observed from Melko's books and illuminating articles. Among the scholars who have vouched for Melko's contributions to research are the illustrious Crane Brinton, Arnold Toynbee, Andrew Quigley, Andre Gunder Frank, Andrew Targowski, and David Wilkinson.

They all noted the essential values of Melko's work as detailed in the following books of Melko and his coauthors:

The Nature of Civilizations, 1969

Fifty-Two Peaceful Societies, 1973, Canadian Peace Research Institute

Peace in Our Time, 1990, Paragon House

General War Among Great Powers in World History, 2001, Mellen Press

The Boundaries of Civilizations in Space and Time (1987 coauthored with

Leighton Scott, 1987

Peace in the Ancient World, (With Richard Weigel), McFarland Press, 1981

Single Myths and Realities, (with Leonard Cargan), Sage Press, 1982

Melko delved into the dynamic political and diplomatic atmosphere at the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War. He was recruited to active duty in the United States Army where he served in Korea from 1952-1954 after he earned his master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1952. Upon his return from the Army, Sergeant Major Melko went to pursue a second Master's of Science degree from Columbia University. He then went to London to pursue his doctoral studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science where he studied under the incomparable historian, Arnold Toynbee. His military and pedagogical training, in addition to the vibrant and optimistic post-World War II years, allowed Melko to flourish in intellectual depth.

After his honorable service to his country in Korea, Melko's career span the fields of journalism, teaching, research and publication and university administration as a dean. In all of these fields, Melko offered himself as a dutiful leader and a scholar of impeccable accomplishments. He has authored and coauthored eight books, published over 70 articles and served as a president of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations.

During his tenure as president of the ISCSC (1983-1986), he endeavored to increase membership and focus the Society's mission on describing and articulating the meaning of civilization. Beginning as early as the 1980s and continuing after the year 2000, the Society also oriented its agenda on the problem of articulating civilization in terms of time and geographical space.

The approach that Melko and his colleagues at the Society selected was a comparative study of civilizations. This approach opened up the way to naming, categorizing, ranking/classifying and assigning origin, influence, evolution, and identification of civilizations. The prominent civilizations that were not disputed as historically visible were not sources of controversy. Melko stated, "The mainstream civilizations are Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Classical, South Asian, East Asian, Andean, Mesoamerican, African, Byzantine, Islamic and Western. …

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