"Occident and Orient in Retrospect",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,
March 13, 1965,
of two books:
A HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD,
by Chester G. Starr.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1965
THE AGELESS CHINESE: A History,
by Dun J. Lu.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965
"Occident and Orient in Retrospect"
A HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD. By Chester G. Starr.
Oxford University Press. 742 pages. $12.50.
The long period extending from the age of the cave men, when life
was dangerous and short, to the establishment of Christian civilization 1,500
years ago offers a severe challenge to any historian: Prof. Starr has handled
the problem about as well as anyone. The task requires firm establishment of an
overriding chronology in terms of cultural stages and equally clear distinctions
of the roles played by a variety of historical entities, such as tribes,
societies, or civilizations within that chronology. The present work does these
things for the whole Old World, including India and the Far East, as well as the
more familiar areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, the Mediterranean, and
Europe. Thirty-two plates, twenty maps, and ten chronological tables illustrate
and embellish a narrative style which is itself firm and clear. The whole
provides an interesting and understandable story of the human adventure down to
about 500 A.D.
Prof. Starr makes a good deal of two pervasive thresholds in man's
early history: (1) the spread of the knowledge of agriculture in the neolithic
period from about 6000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. and (2) the arrival, about the middle
of the first millennium B.C., of what he calls the "New Outlooks," associated
with the teachings of Buddha and Confucius in farther Asia, about the same time
as the achievement of full ethical monotheism by the Hebrews in the period of
the later prophets (such as Amos, Jeremiah, second Isaiah, and Ezekiel), and the
intellectual revolution which stirred the Greeks in the generations on either
side of the Persian Wars (492-479 B.C.).
Prof. Starr's presentation of this intellectual transition period
would have been much strengthened if he had recognized the very significant role
in this whole process, both at that time and since, played by the teachings of
the Persian religious prophet Zoroaster. Unfortunately, this very significant
teacher is mentioned only late and in an incidental way, although his impact
upon the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the whole history of Christianity is of major
importance and has been too long neglected by American classicists.
Fortunately, this is the only significant lacuna in Prof. Starr's
narrative. Although his presentation of his subject remains admirably
chronological throughout, at each successive stage he views the scene with a
* * * *
THE AGELESS CHINESE: A History.
By Dun J. Lu. Charles Scribner's Sons. 586 pages. $8.95 (paperback, $5.95).
This is a masterly book. The author was born and educated in China
and obtained advanced degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He has an
intimate and detailed knowledge of the history of his own country, but the real
virtue of his book rests in his recognition of how to communicate his knowledge
to an alien audience. He goes through the long and complicated story of four
thousand years of Chinese history with full awareness of how to convey such a
strange society and such alien events to Americans. The arrangement is strictly
chronological, but the emphasis is on changing patterns of social organization
rather than on
political or dynastic history.
The author begins with an adequate explication of Chinese
geographic and climate conditions as elements which have exerted a permanent
influence on Chinese history. Each successive period is then explained, chiefly
in terms of social structure, ideology, and general culture. When the story is
finished, the reader can see which cultural elements persisted and which changed
from period to period, until all them were destroyed in the cataclysm of the
last 60 years. Until this final collapse, Chinese culture persisted for
millennia in what is surely one of the most successful societies ever developed
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