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The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives

The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives

Author Naoíse Mac Sweeney
Publisher Dutton
Publication Date 2023-05-23
Section New Hardcover - Nonfiction / World History
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780593472170

A prize-winning historian delivers a captivating exploration of how Western civilization—the concept of a single cultural bloodline extending from ancient Greece to modern times—is a figment of our collective imagination. To challenge this popular perception, Mac Sweeney unpacks myths, offering a bold new account of its invention and development through the lives of fourteen remarkable individuals.

In this bold, story-driven retelling of global history, prize-winning historian Naoise Mac Sweeny debunks the myths and origin stories that underpin the history we thought we knew. Told through fourteen figures who each played a role in the creation of the Western idea—from Herodotus, a mixed-race refugee, to Phyliss Wheatley, an enslaved African girl who became a literary sensation; and from Gladstone, with his private passion for epic poetry, to the medieval Arab scholar Al-Kindi—the subjects are a mind-expanding blend of unsung heroes and familiar faces viewed afresh. Each life tells us something unexpected about the age in which it was lived and offers us a piece of the puzzle of how the modern idea of the West developed—and why we've misunderstood it for too long.

Does Western civilization really stretch back from modernity through the Enlightenment to the classical glories of Greece and Rome? We learn this story of Western history at school and often hear about it in the mouths of populist politicians. It is so popular that it is usually taken for granted, passing unquestioned and unchallenged. But that does not mean it is true.

At this moment of civilizational redefinition, if we are to chart a future for the West, we must properly understand its past.

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