American Historical Review,
Vol. 67 (Oct. 1961 - Jul, 1962), pp. 987-989.
THE EVOLUTION OF
CIVILIZATIONS: AN INTRODUCTION TO HISTORICAL ANALYSIS.
By Carroll Quigley.
(New York: Macmillan
Company. 1961. Pp. x, 281. $5.9S.)
Professor Quigley has set
forth briefly what he terms the scientific laws governing the evolution of
civilization. After twelve pages devoted to scientific method and the social
sciences, which vindicate his right to establish historical hypotheses, Quigley
proceeds to set up his categories. He poses a division of culture into six
levels, from the more abstract to the more concrete - intellectual, religious,
social, political, economic, and military - and he identifies seven stages of
historical change for all civilizations - mixture, gestation, expansion, age of
conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion. These hypotheses are tested
with special reference to one conglomerate in an area that he calls the matrix
of early civilizations, the northwest quadrant of James Henry Breasted. He then
analyzes in some detail five major civilizations to show that his stadial theory
has in fact been operative: the Mesopotamian, the Canaanite, the Minoan, the
classical, and the Western.
The work appears to be
informed by a physiocratic theory temporalized: mankind is ever fulfilling
"needs" and creating new "needs," and these "needs" are the driving forces that
lead to historical action. Quigley's civilizations are admirably functional:
"Since the levels of culture arise from men's efforts to satisfy their human
needs, we can say that every level has a purpose."
Though the spirit of the
two works is different, comparison and contrast with Toynbee's structure are
inescapable. The author himself tells us: "On the whole, the development into
seven stages is largely my own except that I have used Toynbee's ideas, if not
his nomenclature, with reference to the last four or five stages." Toynbee's
style is often dithyrambic, Quigley's, unadorned, matter of fact, "scientific,"
one might even say homely. Toynbee's book is ornate with learned digressions;
Quigley's does not quote sources (for which I imply no blame), settles intricate
learned controversies without much ado, is almost puritanically spare in
exposition. Toynbee has identified twenty-one civilizations in historic time,
Quigley, sixteen -- a loss of five; Toynbee has about four stages in the cycle,
Quigley, seven-a gain of three. Both have a "universal empire" and an "age of
conflicts." Both are rather weak on art as an expression of civilization.
Toynbee's illustrations are largely political and religious,. Quigley's,
economic and scientific. Both Toynbee and Quigley establish the crucial role of
meteorological and geographic phenomena in explaining the origins of
civilization, but while in his early volumes Toynbee, using the Herderesque
concept of genesis, was militant and sometimes absolutist in defense of the
initial autonomous development of civilizations, Quigley's first stage, the
mixture, in schematizing the major population movements, is closer to some of
the diffusionists; the book is particularly good in analyzing migrations. If
Toynbee avoided a glossary of terms until the twelfth volume (post festum),
Quigley defines his terms as rigorously as a chemist might his elements, with
never a moment's doubt about his meaning. As an antidote, it might be worthwhile
to recollect Nietzsche's warning that only that which has no history can be
defined. Of course, in the end, no matter how "scientific" the modern students
of comparative civilizations may presume to be, they cannot avoid analogies in
the manner of the older and more poetic philosophers of history. Toynbee has his
chrysalis, Quigley, his quartz crystals. Suum cuique. Quigley is
knowledgeable about the role and techniques of the military in the history of
civilizations. As a teacher of future diplomats he believes that his
"morphology" will have practical use in helping American administrators to
understand new people -- Brazil, for example. Since this is a comparative study,
the "unique character" of the various civilizations does not concern the author;
he is looking for resemblances, and he finds them. Similarly, the description
of the psychological temper at different moments in the cycle of a civilization
-- in which Toynbee excels -- is absent.
Studies of this nature,
rare in American historiography, should be welcomed. Quigley's juxtaposition of
facts in a novel order is often provocative, and his work yields a harvest of
insights even though I perhaps feel that the ultimate tools of historical
analysis have not been discovered here. If sometime during the next period,
teaching historians break out of the confines of "Western civilization,"
Quigley's book might well serve as a bony framework for a world history. Though
in that event a little flesh would be desirable.
FRANK E. MANUEL
Scan of original review