"Some Permanent Features of Egyptian Civilization",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star,
March 28, 1965,
of a book:
by Pierre Montet, translated from the French by Doreen Weightman.
New Amereican Library: New York, 1965
"Some Permanent Features of
By Pierre Montet, translated from the French by Doreen Weightman.
New American Library. 338 pages. $6.95.
The plan of this book, written by the dean of French
Egyptologists, is indicated in its title. It is not a history, and its
historical framework is seriously deficient. Rather it seeks to
establish the permanent features of Egyptian life over 3,000 years of
Egyptian civilization. These features are examined in sequence and
include the land, the people, the Pharaoh, the administrative and
economic systems, foreign policy, the gods, human destiny, intellectual
achievements, and art.
These nine aspects are preceded by a preface, (which gives an inadequate
sketch of Egyptian history and chronology) and are followed by a final
chapter on the history of Egyptology. Each chapter is filled with
information from the rich stores of Prof. Montet's immense knowledge of
the subject, but this information soon reveals that these various
aspects of Egyptian culture were constantly changing and that there was
nothing "eternal" in them, as stated in the author's thesis and implied
in the organization of his book. Accordingly, the volume will be
confusing to anyone who does not already have a fair grasp of the
historical development of Egypt, especially the usual six-period
sequence of Old Kingdom, First Intermediate Period, New Kingdom, Second
Intermediate Period, the Egyptian Empire, and Decline. Indeed, anyone
who begins Montet's book should already have some idea of the different
character of the chief outstanding outstanding dynasties, such as the
12th, 18th, and 20th.
Fortunately, the necessary preliminary volume, to serve as an
introduction to this one of Montet, already exists (and is available as
a paperback). This is Sir Alan Gardiner's "Egypt of the Pharaoh’s,"
which concentrates on the chronology and the nature of the successive
dynasties but devotes little attention to the nature of Egyptian
culture. Together, with Gardiner followed by Montet, the two volumes
provide an admirable introduction to Egyptian civilization, the
deficiencies of each remedied by the strong points of the other. And the
really serious student might find a fascinating introduction to both in
W. B. Emory's "Archaic Egypt" in the Penguin paperbacks.