Civilization Book Summary - Civilization Book explained in key points
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Civilization summary

Niall Ferguson

The Six Killer Apps of Western Power

4.2 (137 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

"Civilization" by Niall Ferguson, is an insightful book that explores the complex history of human civilization, and provides thought-provoking arguments on the numerous factors that have influenced its rise and fall over time.

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    Civilization
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    Western nations have grown exponentially from relative poverty to world dominance over the past five centuries.

    If you had been able to travel around the globe in the fifteenth century, you would have been more impressed with the civilizations of the Orient than with those of Europe. The societies in the East were more culturally and technologically advanced than their European counterparts. Europe was in fact a relative backwater, plagued by conflict among its many states. While China was able to mobilize its workforce to build great architectural projects like the Forbidden City, Europe was struggling with dreadful sanitation and violence.

    Yet towards the end of the century, the nations of Europe had begun to grow economically and militarily. Over the next 500 years, the balance shifted overwhelmingly in favor of the West.

    The development of the Western empires is one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon.  In 1500, the Western nations controlled just 10% of the world’s surface and 16% of its population. By 1900, this ratio had risen dramatically: just under two thirds of the world’s land and peoples, not to mention 79% of global economic output, were under the control of the Western empires.

    Increasingly, the West’s domination stretched into other spheres. Western religion and Western science spread across the globe, with, for example, economic debate having long been dominated by the ideas of three Europeans: Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx. Even Western fashion became the widespread norm.

    With this domination, living standards in the West rose compared to those elsewhere. By 1990, the average American was seventy-three times richer than the average Chinese – an extreme reversal of their fifteenth century statures.

    Western nations have grown exponentially from relative poverty to world dominance over the past five centuries.

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    What is Civilization about?

    There seems to be a crisis of confidence in the West. In the face of the rising power of China, and with a seeming lack of interest in its own history and civilization, many fear that the West has somehow lost it way.

    Civilization aims to explain why the West grew so powerful and dominated the rest of the world. The answer lies with six killer applications, which enabled the West to overcome the rest. Yet vital questions arise: Has the West forgotten these killer apps and will this lead to its collapse?

    Civilization Review

    Civilization (2011) by Niall Ferguson is a thought-provoking exploration of the history and impact of Western civilization. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • With comprehensive research and analysis, it provides a deep understanding of the rise and decline of civilizations, shedding light on the forces that shape our world today.
    • Ferguson's clear and engaging narrative captivates readers, making complex historical concepts accessible and enjoyable to explore.
    • By examining unique perspectives and challenging conventional wisdom, the book sparks critical thinking and fosters a nuanced understanding of our shared human history.

    Who should read Civilization?

    • Students of history and politics
    • Those who wonder how the West became so powerful compared to the rest of the world
    • Anyone who fears the collapse of Western civilization

    About the Author

    Niall Ferguson is one of the leading and most controversial historians of his generation. He is the author of many bestsellers on financial and political history, including The Ascent of Money, Empire and War of the World.

    In addition to his academic work he has written and presented many highly successful television series based on his books, including Civilization.

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    Civilization FAQs 

    What is the main message of Civilization?

    The main message of Civilization is that the development and decline of societies can be understood through the examination of various factors such as culture, economics, and politics.

    How long does it take to read Civilization?

    The reading time for Civilization varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Civilization a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Civilization is a thought-provoking read that provides deep insights into the historical forces that shape our world. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Civilization?

    The author of Civilization is Niall Ferguson.

    What to read after Civilization?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Civilization, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson
    • Empire by Niall Ferguson
    • The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson
    • The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson
    • The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs
    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei
    • Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport
    • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith