How the World Made the West: A 4,000 Year History (Hardcover)

How the World Made the West: A 4,000 Year History By Josephine Quinn Cover Image
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An award-winning Oxford history professor overturns the way the West thinks about itself, tracing its innovations and traditions to societies from all over the world and making the case that the West is, and always has been, truly global.

“Superb, refreshing, and full of delights, this is world history at its best.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History of Humanity

In How the World Made the West, Josephine Quinn poses perhaps the most significant challenge ever to the “civilizational thinking” regarding the origins of Western culture—that is, the idea that civilizations arose separately and distinctly from one another. Rather, she locates the roots of the modern West in everything from the law codes of Babylon, Assyrian irrigation, and the Phoenician art of sail to Indian literature, Arabic scholarship, and the metalworking riders of the Steppe, to name just a few examples.

According to Quinn, reducing the backstory of the modern West to a narrative that focuses on Greece and Rome impoverishes our view of the past. This understanding of history would have made no sense to the ancient Greeks and Romans themselves, who understood and discussed their own connections to and borrowings from others. They consistently presented their own culture as the result of contact and exchange. Quinn builds on the writings they left behind with rich analyses of other ancient literary sources like the epic of Gilgamesh, holy texts, and newly discovered records revealing details of everyday life. A work of breathtaking scholarship, How the World Made the West also draws on the material culture of the times in art and artifacts as well as findings from the latest scientific advances in carbon dating and human genetics to thoroughly debunk the myth of the modern West as a self-made miracle.

In lively prose and with bracing clarity, as well as through vivid maps and color illustrations, How the World Made the West challenges the stories the West continues to tell about itself. It redefines our understanding of the Western self and civilization in the cosmopolitan world of today.

About the Author

Josephine Quinn is Professor of Ancient History at Oxford University and Martin Frederiksen Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at Worcester College, Oxford. She has degrees from Oxford and University of California, Berkeley; has taught in America, Italy, and the UK; and co-directed the Tunisian-British archaeological excavations at Utica. She is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books, as well as to radio and television programs. She is the author of one previous book, the award-winning In Search of the Phoenicians, and lives in Oxford.

Praise For…

“As our leaders and pundits glorify ‘Western Civilization’ and excoriate migration and wokeness, Josephine Quinn offers a momentous correction: the Greeks and Romans were hodgepodge people, and if we are their heirs it is only because of globe-spanning connections that always produce multifarious ways of life. . . . Brilliant and essential.”—Samuel Moyn, author of Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times

“Bold, beautifully written, and filled with insights, How the World Made the West demands that we challenge traditional views of the past. An extraordinary achievement.”—Peter Frankopan, bestselling author of The Earth Transformed

“One of the most fascinating works of global history to appear for many years . . . incredibly ambitious and wide-ranging . . . allowing us to understand just how globalized and interconnected mankind has always been.”—William Dalrymple, bestselling author of The Anarchy

“Engaging, aspirational, and inspirational, How the World Made the West will be devoured by history buffs and should be required reading for those arguing for the supremacy of ‘Western Civilization’ as well as those arguing for its demise and dismantling, and everyone in between.”—Eric Cline, author of 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

How the World Made the West is a work of dizzying sweep. Josephine Quinn takes readers on a mesmerizing and frame-shifting journey from the Early Bronze Age to the First Contact. In the process, she deals a magnificently mighty blow to the wrong-headed conceits of civilizational thinking, with all its distortions and misprisions. Weaving effortlessly between literary sources and archaeological evidence, and with an ever-vigilant eye for the fine grain of evocative detail, this book is Big History as it should be written.”—Dan-el Padilla Peralta, author of Divine Institutions

“Superb, refreshing, and full of delights, this is world history at its best.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History of Humanity

“No one but Josephine Quinn could have written a book like this—a book of enormous erudition and curiosity, a book that teaches you something new on almost every page.”—Merve Emre, author of The Personality Brokers
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593729793
ISBN-10: 059372979X
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2024
Pages: 592
Language: English