Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Historians Debate the Rise of the West

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Historians Debate the Rise of the West

Article excerpt

Historians Debate the Rise of the West. By Jonathan Daly. (New York: Routledge, 2015, Pp. 190. $44.95, paper.)

In Historians Debate the Rise of the West, historian Jonathan Daly systematically accomplishes his goal of presenting the research and analysis of a broad array of contemporary academics who have endeavored to demystify Western ascendancy. What caused European civilization to be preeminent in the world since 1500 A.D.? Prior to acquainting readers with current scholarship seeking to answer that question, Daly succinctly introduces the relevant ideas of historically prominent and influential Western thinkers on the subject, including the French political philosopher Montesquieu, the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith, the German philosopher Karl Marx, and the German sociologist Max Weber.

Daly begins his survey of explanations for the rise of Europe and the wider West with the arguments of scholars who think that the West ascended mainly due to essential cultural characteristics. Issues of geography, climate, and relations with other peoples are given little attention by these scholars. Instead, they highlight beliefs and values, specifically emanating from Christianity, which for centuries shaped European principles, norms, and aims. They argue that crucial attributes of culture facilitated Europe's development. Europe rose thanks to the absence of a central authority that could compel uniformity. Politically fragmented Europeans created uniquely strong institutions for limiting government and promoting and safeguarding individual lights. Continual competition among and within the various European states led to a distinctive readiness to borrow, innovate and invent, as well as to unite practical and theoretical knowledge.

Downplaying Europe's internal cultural traits, the second group of scholars put forward by Daly call attention to the region's fortuitously favorable geography, external cultural influences, and interconnectedness with the rest of the world. They assert that Europeans were neither exceptionally resourceful nor inventive. Daly's third group of contemporary scholars emphasize the role of bloodshed, exploitation, and imperialism in the progress of the West. …

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