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Cultures of the West

A History, Volume 2: Since 1350

Third Edition

Clifford R. Backman

Publication Date - September 2019

ISBN: 9780190070434

896 pages
6-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $69.99

Presents students with the fundamental questions and ideas that have shaped the Greater West


Cultures of the West: A History, Third Edition, focuses on the ways in which the major ideas and passions of Western culture developed, internally, and how they interacted with the broader world--for good and for ill. The development of such key ideas as religion, science, and philosophy form the central narrative of this book.

Cultures of the West stands apart from other textbooks in a variety of ways, the first being thematic unity. What did people think and believe, throughout our history, about human nature, the right way to live, God, the best forms of government, or the meaning of human life? Rather than maintaining a single interpretive stance, author Clifford R. Backman relies upon a consistent set of questions: What did people think and feel throughout the centuries about politics, science, religion, and sex? How did they come to their positions regarding the right way to live? Backman's many years of experience in the classroom have informed his approach--students respond to engaging questions more than they are inspired by facts.

New to this Edition

  • An improved organization in Volume One treats the Ancient Near East in a more coherent and streamlined fashion and integrates coverage of ancient Rome into two chapters
  • An extended treatment of Eastern Europe throughout, including a discussion of the early history of the Slavs
  • An expanded and improved map program includes seventeen new maps and thirty-eight corrected or updated maps
  • Forty-one new photos--many of which pertain to Eastern Europe--vividly illustrate the discussion in each chapter
  • Updated scholarship informs the narrative, with many new titles in the chapter bibliographies
  • A redesigned format provides students with a warmer and more accessible interaction with the narrative
  • Improved and expanded digital learning resources, including an enhanced eBook with embedded study aids, greatly enhance student engagement with the text


  • Emphasizes the development of values, focusing on ideas and sensibilities and viewing the events of each era in relation to them
  • Interprets Western history on a broad geographic and cultural scale that includes the Middle East in the general narrative, as a permanently constitutive element of the Greater West
  • Treats religious belief as the center of the narrative, because the values upheld by the three great monotheisms of the Greater West--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--have had, and continue to have, a profound effect on the development of social mores, intellectual pursuits, artistic endeavors, politics, and international relations
  • Incorporates an abundance of primary sources into the narrative
  • Consistently treats the history of women and gender relations in the main narrative
  • Argues positions explicitly, not shying away from value judgments

About the Author(s)

Clifford R. Backman is Associate Professor of History at Boston University, where he has been a member of the department since 1989. He is currently at work on a book that traces the development of toleration and interpersonal forgiveness in medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.


"Cultures of the West provides a solid, singular narrative that focuses on the larger values that define Western Civilization. At a time when the topic of Western Civilization is under great scrutiny, Backman brings to light many of the notable achievements of the West and their connection to a larger value system."--Anthony Nardini, Rowan University

"Cultures of the West is professional, informative, clear, and well-written. Backman's approach of considering values behind institutions and events is clever and unique."--Carolyn Coretti, The University of Mississippi

"This is an innovative approach to the history of the Western world, with an emphasis on the values behind historical changes and challenges. It offers a unique approach to the traditional histories of Western civilization by providing a focus on contributions from the Middle East along with the usual political and social narrative."--Matthew Ruane, Florida Institute of Technology

"Cultures of the West is an excellent choice because of the singular narrative that focuses on culture while still communicating the important aspects needed for a survey course."--Patrice Laurent Diaz, Montgomery County Community College

Table of Contents

    About the Author
    Note on Dates

    12. Renaissances and Reformations, 1350-1563
    Rebirth or Culmination?
    The Political and Economic Matrix
    The Renaissance Achievement
    Christian Humanism
    Erasmus: Humanist Scholar and Social Critic
    Martin Luther: The Gift of Salvation
    Luther's Rebellion Against the Church
    The Reformation Goes International
    Calvin and "The Elect"
    Strife and Settlement in England
    Catholic Reform and the Council of Trent
    The Society of Jesus
    What about the Catholic and Orthodox East?

    13. Worlds Old and New, 1450-1700
    European Voyages of Discovery
    New Continents and Profits
    Conquest and Epidemics
    The Copernican Drama
    Galileo and the Truth of Numbers
    Inquisition and Inquiry
    The Revolution Broadens
    The Ethical Costs of Science
    The Islamic Retreat from Science
    Thinking about Truth
    Newton's Mathematical Principles

    14. The Wars of All Against All, 1540-1648
    The Triumph of Death
    The Godly Society
    From the Peace of Augsburg to the Edict of Nantes: The French Wars of Religion
    Dutch Ascendancy and Spanish Eclipse
    The Thirty Years' War
    Enemies Within: The Hunt for Witches
    The Jews of the East and West
    The Waning of the Sultanate
    New Centers of Intellectual and Cultural Life
    Wars of Religion: The Eastern Front
    Economic Change in an Atlantic World

    15. From Westphalia to Paris: Regimes Old and New, 1648-1750
    The Peace of Westphalia: 1648
    The Argument for Tyranny
    The Social Contract
    Absolute Politics
    Police States
    Self-Indulgence with a Purpose: The Example of Versailles
    Paying for Absolutism
    Mercantilism and Poverty
    International Trade in a Mercantilist Age
    The Slave Trade and Domestic Subjugation
    Domesticating Dynamism: Regulating Culture
    The Control of Private Life
    England's Separate Path: The Rise of Constitutional Monarchy
    Ottoman Absolutism
    Persian Absolutism
    The Return of Uncertainty

    16. The Enlightened, 1690-1789
    The Enlightenment Enterprise
    Learning from Our Worst Mistakes
    A New World of Ideas
    Voltaire and the Limits of Optimism
    The Radical Thought of Rousseau
    Can Women Be Enlightened?
    The Jewish Enlightenment
    The Jews and Europe's Ambivalence
    The Unenlightened
    Assessing the Enlightenment

    17. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, 1789-1815
    A Revolution in Western History?
    Revolutionary Road
    The Enlightened Revolution
    The Revolution Turns Radical
    How to Judge a Revolution
    The Rush to Empire
    The Continental System
    Revolution in the Colonies

    18. Industrialization and Its Discontents, 1750-1850
    Britain's Head Start
    Innovation and Infrastructure
    Trying to Catch Up to Britain
    Trying to Catch Up to Europe: The Ottoman Empire
    Life in the Industrial Age
    Riots and Repression
    Women and Children Last
    The Romantic Generation

    19. The Birth of Modern Politics, 1815-1848
    Conservatism in Power
    Royalism and Its Opponents
    The Moral Component of Conservatism
    The Challenge of Liberalism
    Rebellion and Reform
    Responses to Liberal Capitalism
    The Revolutions of 1848
    Karl Marx and Revolution
    The Collapse of the Concert of Europe
    Women in a Conservative Age

    20. Nationalism and Identity, 1800-1900
    Nationalism in Theory
    Nationalism in Practice: France, Italy, and Germany
    Frustrated Nationalism: Hungary and Ireland
    Jewish Identities
    Islamic Nationalisms
    Reforming Islam

    21. The Modern Woman, 1860-1914
    The Appetite for Reform
    Whose Rights Come First?
    Suffragists and Suffragettes
    Love and Sex
    The Female Identity
    Education and Work
    The "Woman Question" for Muslims

    22. The Challenge of Secularism, 1800-1914
    Who Killed God?
    The Theory of Creation
    Darwin and Evolution by Natural Selection
    A Secular Universe
    Nietzsche and the Will to Power
    Art for Art's Sake
    The Illness of Western Society
    Freud and Psychoanalysis
    Modernism: The First Wave
    The Catholic Counterattack
    Modernism, Secularism, and the Jews
    The Islamic Exception

    23. The Great Land Grab, 1870-1914
    "The White Man's Burden"
    The Second Industrial Revolution
    Looking Overseas
    Missionary Europe
    Industrial Warfare and Command Economies
    Western Ways: Emulation and Resistance

    24. The World at War (Part I), 1914-1918
    The Run-Up to War
    The Balance of Power
    A New Map of Hell
    The War in the Trenches
    The Home Front
    Officers and Gentlemen
    Russia's Revolution
    Bolshevism and the Laws of History
    How Not to End a War
    Young Turks

    25. Radical Realignments, 1919-1939
    History for Beginners
    Parceling out Nations
    New Rights and New Economies
    The Great Depression
    The Search for Someone to Blame
    Modernism: The Second Wave
    The Rise of Fascism: Italy and Spain
    Nazism in Germany
    Oppression and Terror in Russia
    A New Deal?
    Appeasement and Pacifism

    26. The World at War (Part II), 1937-1945
    The War in Europe
    War in the Pacific
    Atomic Fissures
    Women in, and against, Fascism
    Atrocities and Holocaust
    Making Amends
    The United Nations and Human Rights
    World War II and the Middle East
    Arab Nationalism and Growing Zionism

    27. Theater of the Absurd: The Postwar World, 1945-1968
    Setting to Work
    Alienation and the Absurd
    The Cold War
    Decolonization in a Cold War World
    Rise of the Welfare State
    Social Conservatism and Economic Liberalism
    The Postwar Boom
    Turning Point: 1967-1968
    The Female Factor
    Women, Islam, and the State

    28. Something to Believe In, 1960-1988
    A Generation of Rebellion
    Big Science and Expanding Secularism
    Another Catholic Reformation
    Postwar Protestantism
    Jewish Revival and Conflict
    International Judaism and the State of Israel
    Islamic Revolutions
    Ba'athism and Brotherhood

    29. Global Warmings, Since 1989
    1989: One Year, Three Crises
    The United States of Europe?
    Economic Globalization
    War and Peace, from the Balkans to Pakistan
    Why Terrorism?
    Israel, Palestine, and the Arab Spring
    Women and the Global World
    Debt, Taxes, and Liberty
    Free Market? What Free Market?
    What Is the Greater West Now?

    Reference Maps
    Appendix. Primary Sources Glossary

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