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Honor: A History

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  93 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
The importance of honor is present in the earliest records of civilization. Today, while it may still be an essential concept in Islamic cultures, in the West, honor has been disparaged and dismissed as obsolete. In this lively and authoritative book, James Bowman traces the curious and fascinating history of this ideal, from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and t ...more
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published April 6th 2006 by Encounter Books (first published 2006)
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Oct 18, 2013 Marie rated it did not like it
I had high hopes, based on the back jacket copy and the cover art, which depicts an ancient frieze, that this would be what the title implies - a history of the concept of honor, presumably in the Western mode. What it actually is is a shallow literary criticism of the use of a narrowly-defined concept of honor in the past 100 years, with the assumption that our culture is 'anti-honor' and somehow it is a big problem that our government couldn't declare war on Iraq by saying "These guys had noth ...more
Margaret Sankey
Sep 27, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it it was ok
I was really disappointed in this book. It starts off well, with ancient conceptions of honor, but it becomes apparent that Boman cherry picks literary examples and that they are all distinctly WESTERN. This accelerates to the 19th century, where he throws a lot of Victorian novels around and the picture sharpens to his vision of gentlemen. The following chapters shift abruptly to organization by American 20th century wars (with the British tacked on) and imply that psychotherapy and confusing w ...more
Brent Barnard
Jun 18, 2012 Brent Barnard rated it liked it
I was really hoping this would shed more light on the honor cultures of the Middle East... but it's still a fairly good book. It means something very specific when it refers to honor. When men are insulted because they are publicly shamed, their honor has been affronted. When they are accused of being cowards or women are accused of being loose, this is the essence of the type of honor he's discussing. Also, when someone from your clan is killed by someone from another clan, and this results in ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Lily rated it did not like it
I've tried several times to read this. The ideas seem terribly muddled and directed towards an agenda.
Jeff Ford
Jul 18, 2014 Jeff Ford rated it really liked it
Good book. The author depends heavily on literature in his analysis of the changing meaning of honor in western civilization. Sometimes this grew a little tedious and repetitive. However, it did open my eyes to how prevalent the anti-honor perspective is in media. In many cases, I was not aware that my own thinking on many things has been influenced by the anti-honor culture around me. It really made me realize that media truly frames the way we see the world.

After reading the book, I can't hel
Rowland Bismark
Jul 30, 2010 Rowland Bismark rated it really liked it
I try to understand that the process of disagreement can be productive and I can learn from those I disagree with. This book was an opportunity for me to reinforce this idea.

I am very interested in “social history,” where you take one concept, idea or institution and follow it through a number of centuries and/or societies. I have always enjoyed the work of Philippe Aries (In the Hour of Our Death, Centuries of Childhood) as well as simple examples like salt (Salt: a history) and hygiene (The Di
Regina Doman
Dec 04, 2009 Regina Doman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All of my friends who are interested in writing historical fiction or building characters
Recommended to Regina by: Matthew Bowman (no relation to the author)
This book made me think harder and longer than any book I've read in a long, long while. I'm still pondering it.

We live in an anti-honor society, and Western civilization, says the author, is the first to become so in the course of human history. This places a huge gulf between us and every other civilization that has ever existed, most prominently between us and Muslim culture today. As someone who's always trying to see through other's eyes, I have wanted to try to grasp and understand this ha
May 04, 2012 Barbara is currently reading it
Interesting book. Premise is that the "honor" culture has been discarded in the West, and the influence of Judeo-Christian concepts, in favor of individual morality, and sincerity and authenticity in private and personal life, made the Western concept of honor different from that in other parts of the world.

This is in direct conflict with countries that maintain a traditional concept of honor. From the author: "These challenges to honor and the accommodations with it that they ultimately produce
Matthew Dambro
I read this some years ago after becoming acquainted with Bowman's work in National Review and other journals. It is a brilliant piece of scholarship and a call to men of all ages not to forsake Honor as an ideal.
Jul 28, 2014 Morgan rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014
This is one of the most infuriating books I have ever read. Bowman is insightful at times, but the assumptions he makes about other cultures and the conclusions he arrives at aggravate me to no end.
Oct 09, 2007 Jill rated it liked it
Reads like a textbook, but is extremely in-depth in the analysis of the rise of the modern concept of honor in eastern and western cultures, particularly focusing on the Middle East vs. West. A little wordy, but excellent documentation supports the theories and provides a great narrative into cultural differences without getting too political or leaning extensively on political opinion.
Jack Donovan
Nov 13, 2010 Jack Donovan rated it it was amazing
Honor: A History is an important book on the topic that, even outside of its own political context, provides insight into the history and present state of Western honor, as well as providing a valuable framework for discussing it -- particularly in terms of the differentiation between reflexive and cultural honor.
Jul 26, 2011 Ronald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only survey of the history of honor that I'm aware of. Unlike Mansfield's "Manliness", this was an enjoyable, not a difficult read. I expect this to be required reading at all military schools. Excellent.
Aug 11, 2014 Stanley rated it it was amazing
This book gave me a framework to understand historical phenomena from biblical times (the book of Judges) to modernity (the legacy of WWI, the advent of social media ADD).
I registered a book at!
Oct 10, 2015 Andrecrabtree rated it it was ok
Not what I'd hoped for, but it does fill in some answers to where we are as a society.
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“A great many grown-up and intelligent people believe, or pretend to believe, that by behaving in a friendly and accommodating way to our attackers, we will show them that they have nothing to fear from us and so defuse their wrath. The idea that such behavior would be taken by a ruthless and implacable enemy only as a sign of weakness is as foreign to them as the idea of honor itself.” 10 likes
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