A Civilization of Explorers
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Measuring the Accomplishments of Civilizations
The claim that there were “surprising similarities” between the West and the more advanced regions of Asia as late as 1800–1830, and that the Industrial Revolution was the one transformation that set Europe apart from Asia is central to the arguments of multicultural historians such as Kenneth Pomeranz, Bin Wong, Jack Goldstone, John Hobson, and Peer Vries. These historians theorize the “rise of the West” as if it were only a question of explaining the onset of mechanized industry, the use of inorganic sources of energy, and the overcoming of Malthusian limits to growth. One critical argument of my book, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization,1is that the divergence of the West cannot be abstracted from the developmental history of the Greek and Roman assemblies of citizens; the parliaments, municipal communes, universities, and estates of the medieval era; and the reading societies, representative institutions, journals, and newspapers...