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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 

Brandeis University 

 

 

Scan of original review


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