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Conquests and Cultures: An International History (Cultures #3)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  383 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
This book is the culmination of 15 years of research and travels that have taken the author completely around the world twice, as well as on other travels in the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and around the Pacific rim. Its purpose has been to try to understand the role of cultural differences within nations and between nations, today and over centuries of history, in shaping ...more
Paperback, 516 pages
Published April 30th 1999 by Basic Books (first published 1998)
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Edward Richmond No. As a matter of fact, this one is listed as "Cultures #3" even though it is chronologically the second one published.

They don't really build off of…more
No. As a matter of fact, this one is listed as "Cultures #3" even though it is chronologically the second one published.

They don't really build off of one another; Sowell approaches race, migration, and conquest as they influence and are influenced by culture. If you're interested in his systematic thinking about culture as an historical artifact, then you certainly can read all of them and do it in order, but they aren't interdependent in terms of whether you will be able to understand the argument Sowell elaborates in any individual book because you happen not to have read the preceding volume of the series.(less)
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Paul Clayton
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book a couple weeks ago. I'll have more to say about it in the future. A must-read for all victims of the American Teachers Union.
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Last month, in December 2016, maybe as a Christmas gift to himself, Thomas Sowell announced that he was retiring. Technically, he announced that he was retiring from writing a syndicated column, but at age 86, it seems likely that he does not intend to write any new books, either. This is unfortunate, but his work is done. There can be little doubt that Sowell’s many works, taken together, by themselves would be adequate to educate someone raised by wolves on everything a person needs to know ab ...more
Nick Gibson
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The final volume of Sowell's massive trilogy on culture, migration, conquest, and race. There is much to cover - even the closing summary is a two-hour read. Sowell's writing is dry compared to a Tom Wolfe essay (as you may expect from an empirical study such as this) but it is also forceful, organized, and mercifully clear. Some parts are truly fascinating, as in Sowell's dramatic narrative of Pizarro's conquest of Atahualpa's Incan empire.

The basic idea is one of cultural capital - that the sk
John Martindale
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this audiobook a few years ago while riding up to Washington DC, it would definitely be worth listening to again. The primary thing I still remember is how Sowell didn't only write about the bad and the ugly, but also about good consequences of Empires. He says we should not do a "Cost/benefit analysis" and claim England for example was justified in her Empire building, because the goods that ultimately resulted in the nations conquered (the rule of law, stability, greater producti ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WOW ! Ok, stop whatever you are doing, grab this book and read the chapter on the Aztecs. My good God. Enough said. This is one of the few history books (possibly the only one) that I will revisit numerous times because of its copious amount of info and absolute clarity. Sowell is a true scholar who has woven an unbiased tapestry of human acculturation via conquest. There is so, so much in this book, although I wish he would have also thrown some light on ancient human civilizations in general a ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the history book I have been looking for all my life. It provides studies of important cultures throughout history and interpretations with supporting rationale. It provides a conceptual framework to help me understand where humanity has come from with supporting details for the conclusions made. Thanks, Mr. Sowell, for your enormous effort to bring the facts together in an understandable way.
Kent Lundgren
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Students of history and geopolitics
Shelves: geopolitics
If you want to reexamine some of your assumptions about civilizations and cultures replacing one another (if you think about such things at all), this is a good book for you.

Sowell, as he is so very able to do, explicates the factors that suit particular cultures for survival at particular times, especially as they come into contact with other cultures. He calls the cumulative mass of those factors "cultural capital", a good definition and one that avoids any hint of a society's intrinsic worth
George Slade
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I have to give Sowell some credit. This dude does research like none other. I enjoyed this very interesting overview of some of the major cultural conquests of both sides of the world. Any true history buffs would enjoy this. It doesn't delve into minute details of each conquests, but you can definitely discover some new and intriguing subjects that you may want to look into further.
Sylvester Kuo
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, history
A compilation of many of Sowell's work on the History of the rise and fall of different empires and how the subjugated people almost always survive and thrive on the newly given technology and experiences to destroy their own backwardness.
Philippe Dame
Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting history lesson but incredibly dense.
Marcio Atz
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just finished the audio book version, many pleasant driving hours.
It provides you with a great view on how conflicts and conquests between nations and cultures shaped civilizations across history. definitely an interesting book.
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Why do some nations rise economically and others fall--and what does the conquest of certain people have to do with it? Dr. Sowell explains that the answer lies in the spread of "human capital." As he does in his other books, Sowell tackles some popular but enduring fallacies and provokes the reader into deeper thinking. "It is both unnecessary and impossible," he states, "to determine the net advantages or disadvantages of conquest"--and Sowell holds to this rule, providing many illustrations o ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent history of the people living in the Western Hemisphere. Pair this book up with Jared Diamonds Guns Germs And Steel and you got a better understanding of our world then most of your professors do.
Craig Dube
Nov 28, 2012 rated it liked it
A somewhat interesting listen and a bit outside my typical comfort zone in terms of what I'd normally read, this book read a bit like a text book, full of facts, figures and census data. The book which is a third book in a 3 part series on culture (I had not read/listened to the previous two), takes a broad look at the impact that conquests across the globe have had on affecting and influencing culture. Four separate and long sections cover conquests involving Great Britian, Africa, the Slavs, a ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ideas
Amazon review:
This book is the culmination of 15 years of research and travels that have taken the author completely around the world twice. Its purpose has been to try to understand the role of cultural differences within nations and between nations, today and over the centuries of history, in shaping the economic and social fates of peoples and of whole civilizations. Focusing on four major cultural areas—that of the British, the Africans (including the African Diaspora), the Slavs of Eastern
Evan Macbeth
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Overall, a good, but not great, survey. Clearly has a ideological axe to grind. The best part of the book for me was the final chapter when Sowell laid out his essential argument. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Sowell's contention that some cultures are just better than others. Yes, I am oversimplifying his argument and he has some strong points, but I felt like he was working from assertion more than logic.

I also found it somewhat ironic to read his contention that native overeducated elites
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An excellent book which details the historical intermingling of peoples, cultures, economies, through the ages. Beginning with Britain, Sowell discusses the myriad of influences brought to England from its beginnings, including the Celts, Romans, Anglos/Saxons, Vikings (Norsemen) and final the Normans. He discusses the cultural changes occurring in other peoples as well such including Africa (and its many tribes), Slavic peoples, the Indians of North, Central and South America. Few peoples have ...more
Beth Barnett
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Definitely a thought-provoking book which covers the history and legacy of conquests and the impact on societies made by the cultural exchanges that conquests create. Sowell discusses the conquest of Britain by the Roman Empire, and later England's conquests the peoples of the British Isles; the conquests of Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. The most interesting idea Sowell discusses is the concept of "cultural capital" which is passed down and shared within cultures, and can have as str ...more
Fred R
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
In many ways it reminds me of Johnson's "Modern Times;" another engaging synoptic account with an obvious ideological bias. The chapter on Britain, as Sowell charts the collapse of civilization in the wake of Rome's retreat, is by itself worth the price of admission. His arguments for the persistence of cultural patterns are convincing, and his animus against non-productive intellectuals who create ethnic divisions and economic chaos in their pursuit of power is quite enjoyable. The lasting impr ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, civilization
This history book, written by an economist, examines cultures and the effects of conquests, arriving (unsurprisingly) with conclusions that will probably be appreciated only by those who think in economic terms. Along with psychical causes such as geography, diseases, and other environmental boons and and detriments, Sowell convincingly argues that civilizations rise and fall largely based on the embrace, development, or rejection of human capital (knowledge, skills, and attitudes).

The author,
Adam Shields
Short Review: How conquest affected the cultures of the British Isles, Africa, Slavs & Native Americans. This is a statistics and macro level focused book on the historical development of cultures after conquest. There are lots of good historical details but very few stories. If you like your history as story, then skip this. If you like your history with lots of stats then this is pretty interesting.

For a longer (about 1000 word) review go to my blog at
Adam Morva
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is how history should be taught in schools.

Forget the nationalistic zeal, the provincialism, the acenstor worship, the boring bullshit or being anal about dates that is part and parcel of virtually every education system in the world when it comes to history. When Thomas Sowell teaches history he does it in an interesting way, demands and supports his pages with evidence, but most importantly, shows you what it means to be human.
Balci Kubilay
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a person who admires Thomas Sowell alot and agree with almost his stances I found it sad that it mainly focused on British history. Ofcourse I cannot expect Thomas Sowell to have a master in Turkic history but it is a quiet wish of me that he would one day start writing about the Ottoman empire and the relations of the different ethnic groups and cultures living in the empire.
Sara Laor
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent cultural and economic review from China to Peru, and all places in between. Ideas in this book should be taught as a counter-weight to teachings in imperialism and identity politics that so dominate American colleges today.
Clinton "Joe"
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
A classic among the works of Thomas Sowell. It is comperable and complementary to Jared Diamond's Gun's Germs and Steel but deals with more recent events in history and is, therefore, able to be more emperical.
Daniel Duval
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Sowell, one of America’s greatest educators. This book should be required reading.
Void lon iXaarii
Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Probably the most interesting and most complete history walkthrough I've ever enjoyed. So many great lessons and such great research and analysis...
Ryan Baldwin
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
A nice macroscopic view of the positive and negative affects of shared cultures.
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Britain, Western Europe, the Slavs, Native Americans - how conquests in these areas shaped those cultures, some nuggets of insight, well-written
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Started audiobook in 2013--unable to finish. Too dry for my tastes.

Retried and finished July 2016. Good information, but still ridiculously dry.
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
More about Thomas Sowell...

Other Books in the Series

Cultures (3 books)
  • Race And Culture: A World View
  • Migrations and Cultures: A World View
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