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13 November 1957



INTRODUCTION--Colonel T. L. Crystal, Jr. , USAF,

Member of the Faculty, ICAF


SPEAKER--Dr. Carroll Quigley, Professor of History,

School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.




Publication No. L58-54
Washington, D. C.


Part 1

   Today I'm going to speak about the cultural development of two great areas. I don't expect to give you much new information. What, rather, I'd like to do is to define rather sharply some of the information you may have and above all to show the relationship between things that you already know.
   I want to begin by pointing out that we have a world today consisting of three great parts. At the center is the Soviet bloc. Around that is the fringe of shattered cultures which I call the buffer fringe, running from the Islamic countries in the west through Afghanistan, India, Burma, and the rest of them to eastern Asia. I call that the buffer fringe. Outside of that we have our own Western bloc. Today I'm going to say nothing at all about the Soviet bloc except that I will say something about China, dealing with it as if it were a part of the buffer fringe, because as a historian I am always a decade or even centuries behind the times, and I'll be talking about China as it was a generation or more than a generation ago.
   I'll speak, then, only of the buffer fringe and of our own Western civilization. What I'm going to do, very simply, is go through a series of developments in the order in which they appeared in our own Western civilization. Then I will examine the order in which these developments occurred in the buffer fringe and show you how the difference in order of occurrence is of major significance in creating the problems of the buffer fringe area.

Table 1. Development sequence in the Western World

   On the left of Table 1 is shown the order in which they occurred in our civilization. When I speak of "our Western civilization" I am talking about that area of the globe which runs from Poland westward to New Zealand. The civilization that I have reference to, our own Western civilization, began about 550 A. D.; and thus it has existed for almost a thousand years and a half.

   Now, the first occurrence in Western civilization, the first great development, is our ideology. It's something I could speak about endlessly, as you know. But I want simply to refer to certain basic things in the outlook of Western ideology, particularly in the first 1,000 years of its existence, because that 1,000 years of Western ideology became the foundation for many of these later developments.

   When I speak of Western ideology I refer specifically to religion - - Christianity - - to such things as the scientific outlook; and to a third thing, which I will call the liberal outlook. It may not be clear to you as I speak, because in all of this I am oversimplifying most drastically; I hope you will understand that. But it would seem to me that there is a common element to all three of these--the Christian outlook, the scientific outlook, and the liberal outlook--and to sum it up, rather briefly the outlook is this: 
All three believe that there is a truth somewhere. They all believe that it is worthwhile seeking that truth. They all believe that the process by which we seek that truth is a process in which we approach it in time; that is, truth is something which unfolds in time. Therefore we must constantly work and strive and discuss in order to get closer and closer and closer to the truth, which we perhaps never reach. This is why scientists don't stop work today in the smug idea that they have the truth; but they have to go on struggling, because what they have today is simply an approximation of the truth.
   Another characteristic of all three of these is that the unfolding of truth in time results from a cooperative effort. That is, it's a social effort. It arises from discussion, criticism, and so forth; and from that emerges a kind of consensus, which is closer to the truth than would be the point of view of any single individual. So thus we have that there is a truth. This is not a skeptical outlook. It is not a dogmatic outlook because nobody now has the truth. It puts great emphasis on chronological development. It puts great emphasis upon social cooperation. Some of this may not seem convincing to you, and I imagine that the field in which it will not seem convincing is perhaps the field of religion. But the Christian religion basically does have this outlook.
   It believes that religious truth has been unfolded in time. That is, we had a whole series of revelations and prophets. We have the Old Testament, that was not replaced but supplemented by the New Testament, and the New Testament has been interpreted and unfolded in the course of time to reveal additional truth. And the process of religious appreciation still goes on. Am I right?
   Now, one other thing that I should emphasize about the Western ideology and particularly the Christian ideology is this: It is not a dualistic ideology. This is a point which many people, I think, misunderstand, because there has been a tendency, at least in the last 500 years, for the Christian or religious outlook to be dualistic. By that I mean that they oppose the material world to the spiritual world. But this was not fundamentally the point of view of the religious outlook of Western civilization for at least the first 1,000 years, During the first 1,000 years, they recognized the basic necessity of the material world. I could point this out in a number of ways. They made a distinction between what was necessary and what was important. Material things were necessary; spiritual things were important. But you could not achieve spiritual things except by working through the material world.
   The Christians felt, for example, that we could not be saved except for the fact that God became man in a real body living in this world. We cannot be saved unless we supplement God's grace with good works in this world. So that the religious outlook is social. It is also materialistic. And in the first church council in 325, the Council of Nicaea, where the creed was first stated, they said most explicitly that they believed in the resurrection of the body, indicating their point of view, which is the really basic Christian point of view, that the body is not an evil or bad thing, but is indeed a good thing, made in the image and likeness of God, and a thing which is necessary to our salvation, because only with a body can we do good things to our neighbors in this world.
   I have perhaps said too much about that, but the reason I'm emphasizing it is this: I feel very strongly that this point of view, which I am trying to describe here, which I will call the Western outlook, and which, as I showed you, appeared in religion, in the scientific outlook, and, I am sure you understand, in liberalism believes there is a truth, which can be reached by discussion, as a social achievement. Therefore there must be freedom of speech, freedom of discussion, and these other things, no one has the truth. Therefore no one has the right to impose his "truth" upon others. Rather, as we talk around the truth, each of us gets a fragment of it; and by contributing our fragment to a common discussion, we will get a truth which is closer to the ultimate truth than would be the point of view of any one of us. Now, this, it seems to me, this outlook, is the real explanation of why Western civilization has been so prosperous, so wealthy, and so powerful--because it has been the most wealthy and most powerful civilization that ever existed.
   Now, I wish to go on to the next thing. But I must, before I speak of the commercial revolution, indicate the basic structure upon which the commercial revolution was imposed. That basic structure you must be familiar with, I am sure. In the Middle Ages, about the year 1000, Western Europe was organized in a series of self-contained, self-sufficient economic units. We call them manors. Each manor tried to produce everything it needed, and over it was a fighting man, a knight.
   The serfs on the manor did no fighting, and were not really expected to be fighters; but they produced goods from the soil. The feudal lords, on the other hand, were fighting specialists and were never expected to till the soil. Thus you got a rigid class structure of an upper class, 2 percent of the population, the feudal knights; and a lower class, the serfs, perhaps 97 percent of the population. The other odd percent is going to the clergy, who were really to a certain extent part of the upper class or part of the lower class depending upon whether they were upper clergy or lower clergy. This system was a system of a rigid class structure and above all with economic self-sufficiency of the unit. A manor was a self - sufficient agrarian unit supporting a fighting knight. There was almost no commerce.
   Beginning about the year 1440, although it had begun hundreds of years earlier in a small way, we got this tremendous development that we call the commercial revolution. That is, there was an influx of money. We got a substitution of money arrangements for personal arrangements, and the whole development which we call the commercial revolution.

   Now, this commercial revolution--the growth of commerce, the growth of a money economy--led ultimately to specialization, economic division of labor, increasing exchange, and a higher level of economic efficiency. Manors could now specialize on those things that they could produce best and could exchange them for money, which could be used to command the products of other manors, other areas, or other social groups which were specializing on those things that they could best do. We call this the commercial revolution.
All right. That's obvious enough.
   The next development is the revolution in weapons, particularly firearms. This is something with which you are certainly familiar--the arrival of gunpowder and the rest of it, the increasing efficiency of missile weapons.
   But I wish to emphasize here one thing which some of you may never have thought of, and it is this: It seems to me, looking over the whole course of history, that the kinds of weapon a society possesses are a major factor in determining the structure of that society. To oversimplify once again a very complicated subject, I would like to divide weapons into two kinds--what I call amateur weapons on one side and what I call professional weapons or specialist weapons on the other hand. The distinction between these two is approximately this: Amateur weapons are cheap to obtain and easy to use. Specialist weapons are expensive to obtain and difficult to use.
   To define those terms a little bit, when I say "cheap" and "easy" in reference to amateur weapons, I mean that an amateur weapon which can be obtained as a result of a few weeks or a few months of work I would call cheap. A weapon which could be used as the result of a few weeks or a few months of practice I would call easy to use. On the other hand, professional weapons can be so expensive that only a very small minority of the society can possess them. And now, as you well know, they can be so tremendously expensive that only very wealthy governments can possess them. So specialist weapons thus can be expensive, but they generally also are difficult to use, in the sense that they can be used only by trained personnel who have practiced at it not for weeks or months, but for years.
    Now, this distinction between amateur weapons and professional weapons is of tremendous significance in forming the structure of a society, in this sense: When you have amateur weapons as the best weapons available in a society, you have as the best weapon something which can be obtained by almost everyone and can be used by almost everyone. In such a society, where the amateur form of a weapon is the best obtainable weapon, you would have a situation where people would be relatively equal in power, because each can have the best available weapon. In a society where people are in fact relatively equal in power, in a showdown the majority can compel the minority to yield.
In such a situation you ultimately will get some kind of a legal expression of the fact that people are equal in power and that a majority can compel a minority to consent. This leads us to democracy, it seems to me that if you look at the history of any civilization or even the whole history of mankind, you will see that if we were to graph a cycle between amateur weapons and professional weapons, we would see that the periods in which professional weapons become supreme, going upward, let us say, are generally followed by periods in which authoritarian governments are established. On the other hand, periods in which amateur weapons are supreme are generally followed by periods, and very closely followed, within a mere couple of generations, by periods in which more democratic regimes are established.
   Now, to look at this in the whole of human history would take us much too much time. I do it sometimes in my courses at the university, but here I simply wish to look at Western civilization .

   In Western civilization at the beginning, let us say back in the year 1000, you had, as I pointed out a moment ago, a very rigid class structure, in which the minority had the best weapons. In the year 1000 there were two outstanding weapons available--the mounted knight on horseback and the stone castle. The stone castle was a defensive weapon. Here is a strange situation - - a society with two supreme weapons which cannot defeat each other--because a mounted knight on horseback could not capture a stone castle and a stone castle could not destroy a mounted knight on horseback. But in any case this was definitely a period of specialist weapons.
   A castle was obviously expensive, but a mounted knight was also a very expensive thing. The horse of a knight was, back in the year 1000, worth 60 oxen, and an ox was too expensive for the ordinary peasant to afford. Thus a horse was more expensive, 60 times more expensive, than what an ordinary peasant could afford. And a knight of this kind had to have two horses. He had to have armor and weapons, all of them very expensive. He had to have a long period of training. He started to train at least by the age of 10, and he was regarded as a trained knight not much before the age of 20. Thus it would take 10 years of training . So you had thus a specialist weapon. The peasants couldn't possibly cope with it. They had no weapons which could possibly deal with it.
   Furthermore, if that knight had a castle, he had a supreme defensive weapon. If anyone gave him orders: "Do this“ or "Do that” he could get in his castle and say, "Nuts" and no one could make him obey, because they could not capture the castle. Now, I won't give you any reason for this except to say that a feudal knight such as I have described was expected to serve each year only 40 days or approximately that; and you could not capture a castle with feudal knights, even if you had a large number of them, because you couldn't starve a castle out in 40 days. Well, now changes occurred. But here you had a political and military system where the defense was supreme. The defense was extremely decentralized--with each castle becoming a nucleus of resistance to authority, and where the weapons were expensive, specialized weapons. Thus you had an authoritarian , decentralized political system.
   Now, as you know, that was replaced later by an authoritarian, centralized system. And it was replaced because of the appearance of gunpowder and cannon, because fewer people could have gunpowder and cannon than could have castles and thus the nuclei of political organization became larger, organizing in each case around the center of whoever could afford cannon.
   Now, those people who could afford cannon ultimately became kings. They took royal titles. They could knock down the castle of the knight. They could also raise more money with their weapons. They thus worked out a system whereby they hired knights. Hired knights could capture castles, because they could besiege them and starve them out, staying there as long as their pay continued to be paid. It's a very complicated process, but what I am trying to show you here is that you shifted from a defensive weapon which was supreme and decentralized but specialist, the medieval knight with a castle, 300 or 400 years later to a system where you had a still very expensive specialized weapon, much more centralized because fewer people could afford it and have it, but which was not defensive. It was much more offensive. And as a result, political units which previously had been organized around castles now began to organize in much larger areas. Ultimately those large areas became great duchies, principalities , and kingdoms.
   Now, as this process continued, weapons became cheaper and cheaper. By the year 1800 approximately the best available weapon, or perhaps I should make it later, 1870, the best weapon available was cheap enough to be obtained by almost anyone. A rifle in 1860 or 1870 or a Colt revolver could be obtained from the work of a man over a period of a few weeks at most, and that was as good a weapon as employees of the government had. Thus you had a democratic amateur weapon. It could be widely dispersed, and in the political reflection of this military fact you got democratic regimes.
   The last democratic uprising in this country, Dorr's Rebellion, in 1842, showed clearly, as earlier in Europe the French Revolution and other events had shown, that if the mass of the people have these weapons, they could not be compelled to obey by government troops who had the same weapons. Thus you got democracy.
   Since then the trend in weapons has been definitely away from amateur weapons and toward specialist weapons, as you know. Today, a government certainly can have those weapons which are too expensive for people to have. Therefore governments today certainly can compel the people to obey. And unless in the future, as I hope but I am not certain--perhaps I hope in vain--there is some development in the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare, so that it becomes once again difficult for a government to compel obedience of groups which wish to refuse obedience, unless that occurs, it would seem to me almost inevitable that political development would follow along behind the military development; specifically that authoritarian governments must replace democratic governments in most places, just as specialist weapons have replaced or are replacing amateur weapons.
   I would hope that perhaps sometime, as I say, guerrilla weapons and guerrilla methods of warfare will make it impossible to compel obedience with the very expensive weapons which governments will possess. I do see some vague indications in that direction; but, being a historian rather than a fortune teller, I will say no more about it.
   Well, now, that will give us the revolution in weapons. The next thing is the agricultural revolution. Here again is a very complicated subject, which I must go through quite rapidly. I spoke about the medieval manor. In the year 1000 the medieval manor had a three - field rotation system, a fallow-rotation system. They planted each field 2 years. The third year it was left fallow, unplanted; and this would recoup, presumably, some of the nutrient elements in the soil, particularly nitrogen from the nitrogen in the air.
   Now, this system was a wonderful system back in the year 600. But by the year 1600 a better system was beginning to appear. And that second stage in the development of agriculture, the first stage being the self - sufficient manor on a fallow-rotation system, began to appear as early as 1600. The date I have given you here is 1720, when it really systematically began to be applied in eastern England, particularly Norfolk. This second stage is the leguminous-rotation system, in which a leguminous crop, whose roots trap the nitrates from the air, was put in the fallow part of the cycle. So thus you could plant your crops every year and not have to leave fields fallow. Instead of leaving them fallow, you put in some such leguminous crop as clover or alfalfa or something of that kind. This immensely increased the nitrogen content of the soil for the subsequent year, in which you planted grain or some other food crop.
   Notice that when you put a leguminous crop into this fallow part of the old three - field cycle, you are planting a crop which is not consumable by men. Clover and alfalfa are not foods, but they can be feeds. And thus the agricultural revolution, by putting a leguminous crop into the old cycle, was providing great stores of fodder for farm animals. The results of this were revolutionary. In the Middle Ages farm animals had to go out and forage for themselves, looking for whatever hadn't been picked. Thus animals in the Middle Ages were excluded out from the arable field and had to shift for themselves outside. As a result of the agricultural revolution you now had lots of fodder, you had the fields all the time under crops each year, you could not permit the animals to range freely, so you included them in. You put fences around them; instead of, as in the Middle Ages, around the arable field, you now put the fence around the animal. And you could now feed him in a contained area with the leguminous crop to provide his fodder.
   As a result of this, the slaughter weight of farm animals in Smithfield, England, approximately tripled in the space of 85 years. That is, from 1710-95 the slaughter weight of lambs, for example, went up from 18 pounds to more than 50 pounds. The sizes of all farm animals drastically increased. This is something that we don't generally think of, but in the Middle Ages animals were very small, and men were also quite small, which explains why modern man has such difficulty getting into medieval armor. If you had the armor of medieval horses, you would also discover that a modern horse couldn't get into it, because cattle and horses have all increased in size.
Now, that is the second stage in the agricultural revolution--the leguminous rotation.
   About 1840 we got into a third stage. That was the chemical fertilizer stage. This chemical fertilizer had combined with it farm machinery. In Germany about 1840 a German chemist discovered or at least propagated the idea of putting a chemical fertilizer into the ground. And about the same time, as you know, in America and other places, McCormick and other people began to invent farm machinery, such as the famous invention of the reaper. This is the third stage--the chemical-machinery stage. The fourth stage in the development of this agricultural revolution has occurred in the present century--the use of hybrid crops which give immensely greater output, plus the use of all kinds of sprays and chemicals.
   Thus we have four stages, successively, in the agricultural revolution. But the importance of the whole thing is that one man can produce today immensely more food than one man could 800 or 900 years ago. I don't know exactly how true these figures are, but I have read somewhere that if you were to go back 500 years, it took approximately 17 men to produce enough food for 21. That would mean that if you had 17 people tilling the soil as a full-time job, you could allow only four people to go off and do something else--governing the country, fighting in armies, or making handicrafts or whatever it might be.
   Those figures have been more than reversed. Today four men, I would believe, under the best modern conditions could produce enough food approximately for close to a hundred people. What this means is that we have released by this tremendous agricultural revolution over the centuries enormous amounts of manpower for nonfood-producing activities.
   All right. Now we go on to the next big development here, the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution is also something which goes through successive stages. I won't really annoy you with the stages, because you certainly must be familiar with them. I generally divide them at least into two--the external combustion engine--that's the steam engine--about the year 1780 or so; and then the internal combustion engine, about 120 or 125 years later. Then after that the revolution has continued, as you know.
   Now, the Industrial Revolution allowed men to produce more and more and more nonfood products, industrial products, the craft products, with an hour of work. As you know, products per man-hour as a result of the Industrial Revolution greatly increased, because the essential feature of the Industrial Revolution is not the factory or the growth of cities or the use of capital or any of these other things which are so frequently mentioned, and should be mentioned; but the essential feature of the Industrial Revolution is the use of nonliving power for production--the power from nonliving sources, such as coal and ultimately oil, waterpower, and other sources, And we hope, I suppose, that ultimately we will have atomic sources.
   Now, let me stop at this point very briefly to point out to you the wonderful sequence of events here. If we were to study the history of Europe, we would find in it, I am sure, much poverty, much hardship and misery--that is true--but the hardship and misery and poverty were more or less incidental in this process. They weren't intrinsic to the process. In order to demonstrate that I will simply ask: What is necessary for industrialism?
   Well, for industrialism you need labor and food, which are approximately the same thing. You need capital. You need invention. These things are provided by the earlier stages here. Invention came out of this Western ideology and the whole urge to innovate and provide better ways of doing things. The capital which was necessary to finance the Industrial Revolution came out of the profits of earlier developments, out of the commercial revolution, where people made great fortunes, for example, in India and other places. The capital to a certain extent also came out of the agricultural revolution, where those people who first adopted the agricultural revolution were able to make extraordinary profits out of it, particularly in Norfolk, England, and other places. In spite of the fact that the soil of Norfolk is poor soil, the agricultural revolution gave a tremendous increase in output there, which gave large profits to the Coke family and other great families of that area.
   The Industrial Revolution required food. The agricultural revolution provided the food. The agricultural revolution also provided the labor which was necessary, because if fewer people can produce more food, then you can release manpower to go into industry. Thus we see that each stage here to a very considerable extent is built upon the preceding stages. And it happens in an order which is not the result of any cleverness on our part. It ' s very much, it seems to me, the result of happy accident or the favor of God or something of that kind. It certainly wasn't, I think, any planning which gave us this.
   Now, we turn to the next development--the revolution in sanitation. This development also I would like to divide into successive stages, going over them very rapidly.
   The sanitation revolution began about the end of the 18th century. The first steps in it were such things as vaccination, which came in in the 1770's, and isolation - - the discovery, for example, that diseases such as plague and so forth could be curtailed by isolation of the sick--but, above all, the discovery that smallpox could be controlled by vaccination. And by the year 1800 there were people who were frenziedly working in Europe to vaccinate Europe.
   I remember in my doctorate dissertation I did research in the Archives in Milan and I came across a Dr. Sacco, who spent his whole life apparently 20 hours a day, year after year, trying to vaccinate people in northern Italy faster than people were being born in northern Italy. At that time Napoleon was the king of Italy, after 1805. Every year Sacco sent in a report and in the report he divided up Napoleon's northern Italy into departments. He took the number of people born and the number he had vaccinated in each department; and in any department where he hadn't vaccinated at least as many as were born, he had a word of apology and explanation as to why he couldn't do it - - insufficient funds, insufficient time, insufficient assistance, and so forth. Well, this is what I mean by the first stage of this revolution in sanitation - - the vaccination - isolation stage.
   Well, approximately 60 or 70 years later we got the second stage in the sanitation revolution; that is, the stage that we might call the antiseptic stage. We associate it with the work of Pasteur and Lord Lister, which showed very clearly that most disease is due to microbes, and by controlling the microbe you can control the disease. This was, of course, a tremendous step forward.
   Now, again, later in our own century we have had tremendous revolutionary developments in sanitation and in general medicine associated with the antibiotics, chemistry, surgical techniques, artificial valves in hearts, and all kinds of such things. The result of this is that by the revolution in sanitation we have drastically reduced the death rate, leading to a birth increase in population.
   That is a perfectly satisfactory thing, because if we increase the population as a result of item six, we have the food to feed them as the result of item four, and we have tasks for them to do as the result of item five. In other words, they follow along once again in a sequence which makes sense and which is helpful to any country or civilization which wishes to absorb it.
   Now we come to the demographic explosion. The demographic explosion results from the revolution in sanitation, and I would like to look at table 2 at this point to show you.

The Demographic Cycle - Quigley


Next Section - Lecture Part 2


Professor Quigley


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