The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation

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9780521547246: The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation
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John Hobson challenges the ethnocentric bias of mainstream accounts of the Rise of the West. It is often assumed that since Ancient Greek times Europeans have pioneered their own development, and that the East has been a passive by-stander in the story of progressive world history. Hobson argues that there were two processes that enabled the Rise of the 'Oriental West'. First, each major developmental turning point in Europe was informed in large part by the assimilation of Eastern inventions (e.g. ideas, technologies and institutions) which diffused from the more advanced East across the Eastern-led global economy between 500–1800. Second, the construction of European identity after 1453 led to imperialism, through which Europeans appropriated many Eastern resources (land, labour and markets). Hobson's book thus propels the hitherto marginalised Eastern peoples to the forefront of the story of progress in world history.

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Review:

'Evidence that Asia's primacy was crucial to the Rise of the West has been accumulating for twenty years. Dr Hobson has now pulled the pieces together in a compellingly written and most challenging scheme. His grand conception will open a whole new order of debate.' Eric Jones, author of The European Miracle and Growth Recurring

'We are still at the beginning stage of a much-needed revisionist history of the world, to which this book makes a lively scholarly contribution. Hobson's well-documented argument warrants serious consideration.' Janet Abu-Lughod, author of Before European Hegemony

'John Hobson's work is thoroughly researched, enormously wide ranging and well written. It does not merely provide a thoughtful response to recent Eurocentric world histories. It is also certain to play a central role in the new wave of studies demonstrating the substantial contributions to modern 'civilisation' made by so many non-European peoples.' Martin Bernal, author of Black Athena

'This is an important book of comparative and historical sociology. It is both a punchy polemic against Eurocentrism and an impressive gathering of evidence on the historical development of Europe and Asia. Hobson argues that the many inventions which supposedly enabled Europe to dominate the world were actually diffused to Europe from Asia (usually from China) and that Asia/China remained as developed as Europe until the 19th century - and mostly he convinces.' Michael Mann, author of Sources of Social Power (2 volumes)

'John Hobson has written an immensely ambitious book which seeks, literally and metaphorically, to redraw the historical map. Drawing on an impressive range of economic and cultural historiography, he proposes a new 'meta-narrative' for a millennium of global history, which is perhaps best summed up as 'The Oriental Contribution to the Rise of the West'. Hobson argues that Western industrialization was based in large measure on the adoption of Arab and Chinese knowledge, the enslavement of African labour and the imposition of asymmetric trading arrangements on Asian economies. As a polemic against European triumphalism, The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization recalls the hugely influential work of the author's great grandfather, the radical anti-imperialist J. A. Hobson.' Niall Ferguson, author of Empire

'... ground-breaking work ... Hobson's main accomplishment is to show that cultures do not exist, not have they ever existed, in isolation.' New Statesman

'John Hobson has written an original and insightful book which amounts to no less than an alternative history of the modern world. Dr Hobson breaks through the received wisdom about East and West, recasting familiar assumptions about 'Western'civilization and tracing the West's indebtedness to the East. His is a rare act of intellectual rediscovery - a remarkable and thought-provoking work.' Shashi Tharoor, author of The Great Indian Novel, and India: From Midnight to the Millennium

'Hobson's book will provide students of world/global history with important source material, as well as controversial ideas, for years to come.' Economic History Review

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John Hobson challenges the ethnocentric bias of mainstream accounts of the Rise of the West. He describes the rise of the 'Oriental West', arguing that Europe assimilated Eastern inventions and appropriated Eastern resources through imperialism. Hobson's book places Eastern peoples at the forefront of the story of world history.

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