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A review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, xxxx 19xx,

of a book:

IT BEGAN IN BABEL: The Story of the Birth and Development of Races and People,

by Herbert Wendt (translated from the German by James Kirkup).

New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1963

 

 

"It Began in Babel: Is This History?"

 

IT BEGAN IN BABEL: The Story of the Birth and Development of Races and People.

By Herbert Wendt (translated from the German by James Kirkup). 

(Houghton, Mifflin Co.; $6.50.)

 

   This volume is a mishmash of fact, fiction and fancy. The title may lead the reader to expect a work on the development of various languages, broadened in the subtitle to "races and peoples." If so, he will be surprised to find the first chapter concerned with Herodotus and may conclude that this is a book on the history of ethnology. But soon we are dealing with the Carthaginian explorer Hanno (two generations before Herodotus) and, in the following chapter, with Mesopotamian history, the Hebrews, and the  Scythians. In fact, three themes concerned with, ethnology, exploration and human history are here assembled into an indescribable confusion which ignores chronology, geography and rational exposition.

 

   This volume seems to be the reading notes of an omnivorous and completely uncritical reader thrown together in a slovenly assemblage which is of no value to any other reader. Factual errors, editorial lapses, confused thinking and misconceptions are numbered in the hundreds. The confused organization might be forgiven, but the blatant errors are unforgiveable.

 

   Errors of dating are thousands and even hundreds at thousands of years off. Geographic errors have comparable margins. Human beings are murdering each other in the "late Tertiary Period in South Africa" (p. 9) when there were no humans in that area in that period (which is usually dated a million years ago). The foundations of the palace at Knossos are placed in the fifth millennium B. C., at least 2,000 years too soon. The Phoenicians arrive in Syria as "a new race" in the seventh century B. C. (p. 93) at least 1,400 years too late.

 

A Bit Confusing

   On pages 68-77 Mr. Wendt argues that Egyptians sent by Queen Hatshepsut sailed from one Egyptian "base" to another "along the African coast," and that one of these bases was Zimbabwe. He is not bothered by the fact that Zimbabwe is 250 miles inland from the coast and was built at least 2500 years after Hatshepsut's death (Clark, Prehistory at Southern Africa, pp. 297-298).

 

   The customary terms of cultural chronology (such as Stone Age, Mesolithic, Neolithic, etc.) are generally mis-used in this book, as are also most at the terms for cultural groups. Cro-Magnons are the "creators of the first human culture" and in South Africa are known as "Boskop man". The Aryan invaders of India are called "Hindus", a religious and social term of much later significance (p. 14, 129, etc.), the Indo-European invaders of the Near East (Hittites and Mitannl) are called Hurrians, a quite different Asianic people, and relationships are so confused that the largely Semitic Hyksos invaders of Egypt are called Hurrian and regarded as Indo-Europeans (pp. 102, 129), while the earliest at all civilized peoples (the Sumerians) are regarded as Hurrian invaders tram India (p. 90). The invention of the bow-and-arrow is attributed to pastoral peoples of the steppes (p. 113) when it originated thousands at years earlier in some forested area of the south.

 

No Credit Due

   The translation and editorial work of this book is quite as slovenly as the writing: silk comes tram a "butterfly" (p. 155) instead of from a moth; pronouns in many places have no visible antecedents (p. 156, 157): poor Prof. Chiera is reported to have said (p. 82) that Mesopotamian temples were made of "millions of stones" one sentence before the author tells us that everything had to be built of mud bricks because "Mesopotamia had almost no stone." In general this volume is no credit to anyone who had a hand in it.

 

--CARROLL QUIGLEY.

 

 

Mr. Quigley, professor history in the Georgetown University Foreign Service School, is the author of "The Evolution of Civilizations" which was published by Macmillan last November.

 

Scan of original review

 

 


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