Civilization

  • by Niall Ferguson
  • Narrated by Niall Ferguson
  • 13 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Niall Ferguson's provocative best seller, Civilization: The West and the Rest, read brilliantly by the author himself.
If in the year 1411 you had been able to circumnavigate the globe, you would have been most impressed by the dazzling civilizations of the Orient. The Forbidden City was under construction in Ming Beijing; in the Near East, the Ottomans were closing in on Constantinople. By contrast, England would have struck you as a miserable backwater ravaged by plague, bad sanitation and incessant war. The other quarrelsome kingdoms of Western Europe - Aragon, Castile, France, Portugal and Scotland - would have seemed little better. As for fifteenth-century North America, it was an anarchic wilderness compared with the realms of the Aztecs and Incas. The idea that the West would come to dominate the Rest for most of the next half millennium would have struck you as wildly fanciful. And yet it happened.What was it about the civilization of Western Europe that allowed it to trump the outwardly superior empires of the Orient? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues, was that the West developed six "killer applications" that the Rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. The key question today is whether or not the West has lost its monopoly on these six things. If so, Ferguson warns, we may be living through the end of Western ascendancy. Civilization takes readers on their own extraordinary journey around the world - from the Grand Canal at Nanjing to the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; from Machu Picchu in the Andes to Shark Island, Namibia; from the proud towers of Prague to the secret churches of Wenzhou. It is the story of sailboats, missiles, land deeds, vaccines, blue jeans and Chinese Bibles. It is the defining narrative of modern world history.

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What the Critics Say

A dazzling history of Western ideas - Economist
"One of the world's leading historians." (Hamish McRae, Independent)
This is sharp. It feels urgent. Ferguson, with a properly financially literate mind, twists his knife with great literary brio - Andrew Marr, Financial Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Very entertaining, interesting and informative

Reviews of this book on Amazon are mixed but I have always liked Niall Ferguson's wwork so took the plunge. I am glad I did so. I thoroughly enjoyed the book - full of interesting facts and anecdotes, novel and thought-provoking ideas, global in scope and outlook, and very well written. I was genuinely sorry when it finished and I am sure I will read it again.

A real bonus is the excellent narration by the author himself. He was clearly enjoying himeself, does all the accents very entertainly, paces himself perfectly, and his enthusiasm and energy come through loud and clear. Tremendous stuff.

Strongly recommended, particularly if you like history.
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- Amazon Customer

Quite hard work

There are (these days) history books that romp along and build up a convincing story in your head. This one didn't quite achieve that for me; it started slipping into a list of events. Thus I found myself having to re-listen three of four times and force myself to concentrate. Mr Ferguson does try to make it easier by defining the 'killer apps' of Western civilisation, and then structuring the book around these killer apps, but the killer apps are not quite as clear-cut and illuminating as you might hope. Still, a good set of thoughts; I enjoyed the amount of time spent on clothes and the textile industry and the importance of consumer society to our modern civilisation.

Narration. Ferguson does a fine job on the general narration, but falls down on the (extended and numerous) quotations. They are all done in the same, slightly nasal, all-purpose 'foreign' accent, from Bolivia to Japan. Quite bizarre.
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- Judy Corstjens

Book Details

  • Release Date: 13-09-2011
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd