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The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  168 ratings  ·  16 reviews
The Rise of the West, winner of the National Book Award for history in 1964, is famous for its ambitious scope and intellectual rigor. In it, McNeill challenges the Spengler-Toynbee view that a number of separate civilizations pursued essentially independent careers, and argues instead that human cultures interacted at every stage of their history. The author suggests that ...more
Hardcover, 852 pages
Published June 1968 by Chiccago UP (first published 1963)
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Marc L
This book was published in 1963. I thought: "Never mind the 820 pages, I'll read through it in about a month, it will be too outdated". Well... yes it is outdated (as the author acklowledges in an accompanying essay), but nevertheless it took about half a year for me to absorb all of it.
McNeill is the first one ever to have written a truly world-history (Spengler and Toynbee before him were just speculative theories). Above all, I appreciated his extensive elaboration on the Middle East, China
Tom Schulte
In The Outline of History, H. G. Wells observed, "The natural political map of the world insists upon itself. It heaves and frets beneath the artificial political map like some misfitted giant."

McNeill's panoramic view of history is cut from the same cloth: cultural in continuous clash with political and societal priorities often at odds with pressure building up like a tectonic fault. McNeill sees the interactions and tensions of intermixed peoples pouring out of the steppes for centuries and j
The Rise Of The West by William McNeill is reputed to argue that civilizations influenced each other, versus Toynbee's and Spengler's view that world civilizations developed independently. McNeill makes a good case and credits trade and commerce primarily as the agents of influence. It won the 1964 National Book Award in history and is on Modern Library's list of the best 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century. It is well-written and has lots of footnotes giving his sources.

A brief survey of
Karen Cox
I cannot rate this book highly enough. It is the best basic history book in existence, going from Sumer to the middle of the 20th Century. McNeill's writing is clear and easy to comprehend, yet he never oversimplifies the material he covers. Anyone who wants a thorough overview of history from Sumeria to the 1950s, this is the book.

It should be noted that while he calls the book "Rise of the West," he covers India, China, and the Americas as well. In fact, this is one of the best books I've eve
Mike Hankins
The Rise of the West is an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Toynbee, to create a synthesis of the entirety of human history, from the beginning of paleolithic man up through the Cold War. This is a huge task, and by necessity and design, McNeil will make sweeping generalizations about entire cultures, often covering vast centuries in single sentences. Most readers will scoff at these things, and especially readers familiar with particular areas of history will be shocked. Their brains will ...more
Sense of  History
McNeill is the first one ever to have written a truely world-history (Spengler and Toynbee before him were just speculative stories). Above all, I appreciated his extensive elaboration on the Middle East, China and India en especially the crucial role of the waves of nomadic people in Eurasia (Roman history is covered in just about 10 pages). My narrow-minded European-centered history vision has been changed forever! In that view the title of the book (the Rise of the West) is a bit odd.

Mar 08, 2014 Scott marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I added this to my To Read list since both Brian Eno and Stewart Brand include McNeill in their Long Now lists. I knew his name from the Big History conference I went to. I had his more recent "The Human Web," but I donated it to Piya's history class.
This was published about 1963, an older history. In the new intro to this book McNeill points out its flaws, which more recent findings have revealed.
It took me many lunches at home to finish this tome. But it was a good read.
Andrew Trembley
It is a somewhat dated, somewhat Eurocentric view of the world, but still my favorite book about the rise of civilzation as we know it.
Craig J.
The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by William McNeill (1992)
Nov 05, 2008 Aaron marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
My dad's always talking about this one, so I guess it's about time I read it.
A nice fat history, seemed very reliable.
Classic overview of western history and culture
600AD to the present.
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