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The Cultures of the West, Volume One: To 1750

A History

Clifford R. Backman

Publication Date - December 2012

ISBN: 9780195388909

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

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $44.95

Consistently engaging, and broad in its geographical scope, The Cultures of the West presents students with the fundamental questions and developments that have shaped the Greater West


The Cultures of the West: A History 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.

The 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.


* Single author voice: clearly and compellingly written by an experienced teacher and scholar who knows how to emphasize intriguing and eye-opening elements of Western Civilization
* A book with a point of view: even if disagreed with, the text will at engage students' minds
* Exceptional coverage of cultural history, especially the history of what people thought and felt throughout the history of the West
* "Greater West" approach that integrates in sustained fashion coverage of Islam and the Middle East
* Superior coverage of Jewish history and the history of women
* Extensive primary source excerpts integrated directly into the text, many of which have been translated by the author
* Footnotes featuring surprising, engaging information usually neglected in other texts

About the Author(s)

Clifford R. Backman is Professor of History at Boston University. He is the author of The Worlds of Medieval Europe, Second Edition (OUP, 2008), and The Decline and Fall of Medieval Sicily: Politics, Religion, and Economy in the Reign of Frederick III, 1296-1337 (1995).

Table of Contents

    1. Water and Soil, Stone and Metal, 10,000 BCE - 2100 BCE

    The Tigris and the Euphrates
    Early Sumer: Kings and Warriors, Priests and Scribes
    The Idea of Empire
    Mesopotamian Life: Cities and Slaves, Letters and Numbers
    Religion and Myth: The Great Above and Great Below
    Ancient Egypt
    Social Strata in Egypt
    The Kingdom of the Dead

    2. Law-Givers, Evil Emperors, and Dangerous Gods, 2100 BCE - 486 BCE

    Old Babylon
    Middle Kingdom Egypt
    The New Kingdom Empire
    The Indo-European Assault
    The Age of Iron Begins, ca. 1200 BCE
    Persia and the Religion of Fire

    3. The Chosen People, 1200 BCE - 538 BCE

    A Great Nation
    The Bible and History
    The Land of Canaan
    Dreams of a Golden Age
    Women and the Law
    Prophets and Prophecy
    Priests and Rabbis
    A Genius for Reinvention

    4. Greeks and Persians, 2000 BCE - 479 BCE

    From Chaos to Tragedy
    The Mycenaean World: Heroes and Kings
    The End of an Age and Mythic Ancestors
    Colonists, Hoplites, and Tyrants
    A Cult of Masculinity
    Sparta: The Militarization of the Citizenry
    Miletus: A Merchant Oligarchy and the First Philosophers
    Athenian democracy
    The Persian Wars

    5. Hellenism and Second Temple Judaism, 499 BCE - 192 BCE

    The Classical Age
    Women, Children, and Slaves
    The Polis; Ritual and Restraint
    Civilized Pursuits: Epic and Lyric Poetry
    The Birth of Tragedy
    The Peloponnesian Disaster
    Medicine as Natural Law: Hippocrates
    Mathematical Ordering and Sophistry
    Socrates and the Meaningful Life
    Plato and Ideal Forms
    Aristotle and the Pursuit of Happiness
    Alexander the Great
    A Mongrel but Magnificent World
    Second Temple Jews and Judaism
    The Maccabaean Revolt

    6. The Empire of the Sea: Rome, 753 BCE - 180 CE

    Links to a Heroic Age
    Republic, Property, and Family
    The Republic of Virtue
    Size Matters
    Can the Republic Be Saved?
    The Golden Age: The Augustan Era
    The Sea, The Sea
    Roman Lives and Values
    7. Paganisms and Christianities, 40 BCE - 305 CE

    The Jesus Mystery
    A Crisis in Tradition
    Ministry and Movement
    What Happened to His Disciples?
    Christianities Everywhere
    Romans in Pursuit
    Pagan Vitality
    Stoicism and Neoplatonism

    8. The Early Middle Ages, 306 CE - 750 CE

    The Imperial Crisis
    Imperial Decline: Rome's Overreach
    Martyrdom and empire
    A Christian Emperor and a Christian Church
    The Rise of "New Rome"
    "The Age of Ignorance"
    The Islamic Revelation
    From Preacher to Conqueror
    Compulsion or Conversion?
    Classical Traditions and Western Expansion
    Barbarian Kings and Scholar-Monks
    Divided Estates and Kingdoms
    The Body as Money and Women as Property
    Christian Paganism
    Pockets of Intellectual Life

    9. Reform and Renewal, 750-1258

    Two Palace Coups
    The Carolingian Ascent
    Imperial Coronation
    Carolingian Collapse
    The Islamic Empire
    Sunnis and Shi'a
    The Qur'an and the Philosophers
    The Splintering of the Caliphate
    The Reinvention of Western Europe
    Mediterranean Cities
    The Reinvention of the Church
    The Crusades
    But Not a War Against Islam
    Parliaments and the Mamluk Empire
    Judaism Reformed, Renewed, and Reviled

    10. Worlds Brought Down, 1258-1453

    Late Medieval Europe
    The Guild System
    The Mendicant Orders
    Early Representative Government
    The Hundred Years' War
    The Plague
    Conquest of the Islamic World
    In the Wake of the Mongols
    A New Center for Islam
    Conservatism and Reaction
    The Ottoman Turks
    Persia under the Il-Khans

    11. Renaissances and Reformations, 1350-1550

    "I Fixed upon Antiquity"
    Classicism, Humanism, and Statecraft
    The Political and Economic Matrix
    The Renaissance Achievement
    The Protestant Renaissance
    Erasmus: Satirist and Itinerant Scholar
    Martin Luther: The Gift of Salvation
    Rebellion against the Church: "95 Theses"
    The Reformation Goes International
    Scholars and Activists
    Protestantism without Luther
    Calvin: Protestantism as Theology
    The Rebirth of Satire
    Utopias and Book Burnings
    Rabelais: The In-house Catholic Attack

    12. The Last Crusades, 1492-1648

    The New World
    New Continents and Profits
    Conquest and Epidemics
    New Crops and the Enclosure Movement
    The Patriarchal Family
    Sexual Morality
    Enemies Within: Witches and Jews
    The Jews of the East and West
    Wars of Religion
    The Peace of Augsburg and the Edict of Nantes
    The Church of England
    The Thirty Years' War
    Wars of Religion: The Eastern Front
    The Waning of the Sultanate
    New Centers of Intellectual Life
    The Ottomans: From Strife to Warfare

    13. Science Breaks Out and Breaks Through, 1500-1700

    The Copernican Drama
    Galileo and the Truth of Numbers
    The Other Scientific Revolution
    The Council of Trent, 1546-1563
    The Society of Jesus
    Inquisition and Inquiry
    The Revolution Broadens
    The Ethical Costs of Science
    The Islamic Retreat from Science
    Thinking about Truth
    Descartes and the Quest for Truth
    Newton's Mathematical Principles
    The Choices for Western Society

    14. From Westphalia to Paris: Regimes Old and New, 1648-1789

    The Peace of Westphalia: 1648
    The Argument for Tyranny
    The Social Contract
    Absolute Politics
    Police States
    Self-Indulgence with a Purpose
    Mercantilism and Absolutism
    Mercantilism and Poverty
    Domesticating Dynamism: Regulating Culture
    Decency and Modesty
    The Birth of Private Life
    The English Exception
    Civil War and Restoration
    Ottoman Might and Islamic Absolutism
    Safavid Pleasures
    The End of Order
    The Slave Trade and Domestic Subjugation
    The return of uncertainty
    What Is the Greater West Now?