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Civilizations

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe

257 Bewertungen bei Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0333901711 / ISBN 13: 9780333901717
Verlag: Macmillan Publishers Limited, Oxford, 2000
Gebraucht Zustand: Very Good Hardcover
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Beschreibung

Hardcover. Rubbing around the edges of the d/j. This project is based on the premise that civilizations are the product of their environment. With that the author looks at cultures of the desert, the tundra and ice, then to the more obvious civilizations of alluvial flood plains, the highlands, maritime civilizations and finally civilizations of travel, migration and expansion. This is a work of massive cross referencing juxtaposing the maritime civilizations of Japan and Northern Africa or the civilizations of New Guinea and Tibet. The effect is to suggest that civilization can happen anywhere - that no one environment is uniquely conducive, or that no one race or people are more productive than another. Buchnummer des Verkäufers 031781

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: Civilizations

Verlag: Macmillan Publishers Limited, Oxford

Erscheinungsdatum: 2000

Einband: hardcover

Zustand:Very Good

Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Very Good

Auflage: Ninth Impression

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Inhaltsangabe:

Argues that geographical, agricultural, and social factors shaped the civilizations which developed in various climatic regions, and explains how the success of civilizations depends on environmental resources.

Review:

"Civilization" is a tricky term, one that means many things to many people. For some, it denotes great buildings, canals, codes of law; for others, it offers a contrast between one group and another, with the advantage always going to the more "civilized" bunch against the "barbaric," "savage," or "primitive."

All such distinctions, writes Oxford University historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, are arbitrary and laden with subjective value; they speak to unscientific notions of progress, to hidden agendas. What matters, he continues, is the extent to which a culture has developed means to separate itself from nature: "Civilization makes its own habitat. It is civilized in direct proportion to its distance, its difference from the unmodified natural environment." A culture such as the ancient Han Chinese, the medieval highland Maya, or the Renaissance Venetian, then, is highly civilized inasmuch as its members dammed and diverted rivers, drained lakes, stripped forests, and built monumental structures to celebrate their achievements; people content or resigned to "live off the product and inhabit the spaces nature gives them" are markedly less so by virtue of that accommodation.

No culture, Fernández-Armesto writes, is inherently exempt from becoming civilized; nor, he adds, does "civilized" equate to "good." In exploring history as a branch of historical ecology, he sometimes abandons his thesis, intriguing and provocative as it is, to engage in a wide-ranging survey of the world past reminiscent of (but much better-written than) Toynbee and Durant, touching on the ancient Greeks here, the herding peoples of the African savanna and Central Asia there, the Moundbuilders of prehistoric North America and the hunting peoples of the Arctic there. Unlike many standard textbooks, his narrative manages to offer something new wherever he turns. Allusive and learned, his book repays close reading--and should inspire plenty of argument along the way. -- Gregory McNamee

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