Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume I, Marvin Perry

I took a Western Civilization class this past semester and this book was our required reading.

Overall, I appreciate the authors of this book because they recognized that what really separated the West from the rest of the world was a strong sense of Christian ethics, morals, and traditions. I suppose we could argue all day over the morality of the church in it’s infancy, but these are semantics when compared with the atrocities in other places of the world during the same time. What is really interesting to see is the preservation of Western culture and society when it should have been eradicated in favor of a more dominant faction several times. As you may have already read from a previous book review, the Mongols knocked on Europe’s door but never laid claim to anything past Eastern Europe. We can trace the progression of those societies in the fall out of that Empire shows them stepping considerably back. In addition, you see the Muslim conquests of the early 700-1000’s and see things like the fall of Constantinople in the 13th century. Again, the Middle East (or the Ottoman Empire) never again became a source of enlightenment like the West did. One more example perhaps could be the reformation: the ability to interpret and read the Bible threw Europe into the modern age. The reformation also gave Europe the printing of tracts, books, and really progressed the society in a way that can’t really be compared to (perhaps China is the only exception to this that I can think of, but they too had many years of rebuilding and reforming when the Mongols conquered their Empire).

To me, the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans also is considerably interesting. To see the foundations of democracy as well as the revolution and redefinition of Roman law and the progress made in this time makes for fascinating reading. I believe this is also important for the Christian because it gives real context to the Bible. You understand better Paul in Athens or Jesus in Jerusalem in front of Pilate.

But this does read like a text book and it has it’s moments of dryness. So be warned !

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