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Book Cover for: How the World Made the West: A 4,000-Year History, Josephine Quinn

How the World Made the West: A 4,000-Year History

Josephine Quinn

Based on her own sweeping research, 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 we are, and always have been, a truly global culture.

In How the World Made the West, Oxford historian and classicist Josephine Quinn poses perhaps the most significant challenge ever to the "civilizational" thinking regarding the origins of Western culture and thought--that is, the idea that civilizations arose separately and distinctly from one another. Upending two centuries of conventional historiography and troubling the waters of our Western origin story, she locates the roots of the West in everything from literature from Sumeria, the law codes of Babylon, metallurgy from the Hittites, to sculpture from Egypt, irrigation from Assyria, and the art of navigation and the alphabet from Phoenicia, to name just a few examples.

Rather than the very popular "West and the rest" view of history, Quinn demonstrates that cultures come to life by borrowing heavily from others, near and far. Reducing the backstory of the modern west to a narrative that focuses on, or even begins with, Greece and Rome reveals an impoverished view of the past. Our west-centric understanding of modern history would have made no sense to the ancient Greeks and Romans themselves. Instead, ancient authors understood and talked about their own connections to and borrowings from others, and they consistently present their own history as the result of contact and exchange. Quinn builds on the writings they left behind, through rich analyses of ancient literary sources like the epic of Gilgamesh, holy texts, and newly discovered records revealing details about ancient life that are constantly emerging from archival research in the waterlogged sites of the north and the sands of the desert. A work of breath-taking 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 all that we thought we knew about ourselves, and redefines our understanding of the western self and civilization in the cosmopolitan world of today.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: Sep 3rd, 2024
  • Pages: 592
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 0.00in - 0.00in - 0.00in - 1.25lb
  • EAN: 9780593729793
  • Categories: World - GeneralHistoriographyCivilization

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 UC 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 programmes. She is the author of one previous book, the award-winning In Search of the Phoenicians. She lives in Oxford.
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