Civilization: A New History of the Western World by Roger Osborne - review by Gregor Dallas

Gregor Dallas

The Snake Winds Forward

Civilization: A New History of the Western World


Jonathan Cape 506pp £20

Are we civilised? City blight, broken families, functional illiteracy, corporate thuggery and yobbishness make us ponder a moment. Have we ever been civilised? Brutal war and genocide have accompanied the growth of ‘Western civilisation’ since it started 3,000 years ago. ‘This is civilisation’s fight,’ was President George Bush’s first public remark on the day those two towers in New York crumbled. What, he means a civilisation based on war and genocide?

Somehow, notes Roger Osborne, we manage to identify civilisation in our minds with openness, tolerance, freedom and justice and not with torture, slavery, crime and drug dependency. But why should this be so? The answer lies in a human consciousness which perceives the Western world selectively, highlighting virtue and obscuring

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