World History

A new perspective
Clive Ponting

Reading such vast works is both incredibly stimulating, but in some ways frustrating. As enjoyable as they are to read, the details slip away so quickly and one is just left with impressions.

The main theme of this book is that we have been taught world history from a Western centred perspective. The central narrative of this is that since the Ancient Greeks, the West has been on a triumphant march to its domination of the world in almost every sphere.  Ponting dismantles this view, showing that for much of this time, especially between the end of the Roman Empire and the start of the renaissance, European nations were second and third rate powers.

The vast empire of the Ottomans, where learning prospered and where people of other religions could practise their faiths openly (whilst paying some extra tax). China, an empire which was hundreds of years ahead of Europe in so many areas, and which would perhaps have continued to eclipse Europe if not for the invasion of the Mongols.

Really Europe only had a couple of centuries of global power, partly based on the use of slavery and the stolen wealth of other lands. I believe modern Western culture at its heights rivals anything humankind has created, but we shouldn't forget that as with all the other peaks of civilisation, it was based on widespread oppression. We should also not forget the contribution made by scholars and thinkers in so many other parts of the world, that the West learnt from and integrated into its own ideas.

I love books with this much detail and vision, I just wish I could remember a little more of the detail.  Highly recommended.

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