This book gives a brief, readable description of our common Western heritage. It covers the minimum historical information that educated adults should know within a tightly-focused narrative and interpretive structure. The joined terms “supremacies and diversities” develop major themes of conflict and creativity. “Supremacies” centers on the use of power to dominate societies, ranging from warfare to ideologies. Supremacy seeks stability, order, and incorporation. “Diversities” encompasses the creative impulse that produces new ideas, as well as people’s efforts to define themselves as “different.” Diversity creates change, opportunity, and individuality. These themes of historical tension and change, whether applied to political, economic, technological, social and cultural trends, offer a bridging explanatory organization. Five other topical themes regularly inform the text: technological innovation, migration and conquest, political and economic decision-making, church and state, and disputes about the meaning of life. Various “Basic Principles” present summaries of historical realities. Primary Source Projects and Sources on Families offer students the chance to evaluate differing points of view about the past. This text is less expensive, less formal, has more attitude, yet still provides all the essentials for a course on Western Civilization.
Brian A. Pavlac has recently retired as professor of history at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he has served as chair of the department and a Herve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor. He is the author of Witch Hunts in the Western World: Persecution and Punishment from the Inquisition to the Salem Trials; coauthor with Elizabeth S. Lott of The Holy Roman Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; translator of A Warrior Bishop of the 12th Century: The Deeds of Albero of Trier, by Balderich; and editor of Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood.
Exceptionally well-written, engaging, and accessible. . . . Pavlac includes useful diagrams and charts throughout. . . that break down complex information into visual and easy-to-digest parts. . . . Perhaps the most important attribute of A Concise History of Western Civilization is that this is a text that students would actually read and understand. For many history professors, the first and most fundamental struggle is getting students to read and furthermore to read critically. Thus, the fact that the book is one that students will read, become engaged with, and understand makes it a valuable resource to teachers of Western Civilization.
This book is the way to go for a one-semester course: a text that’s full, but not dense. It’s well-informed and intelligently written, yet still accessible. The big-picture approach combined with guided questions keep students on track, while the writing is lively, anecdotal, and illustrative—a nice balance of the forest and trees. The concise nature of the text makes it particularly suitable for online or condensed semesters.
Written with the skill of a novelist, this book guides the reader step by step through the process of what a historian thinks, does, and interprets. Chapter content establishes the foundation for each future chapter with carefully selected questions, key word definitions, and ideas in bold type. This is the best-written textbook on Western civilization that I have had the pleasure to read in thirty-five years of teaching.
The book’s conciseness and reasonable cost are very attractive. For a single-semester course that spans the three millennia, I preferred this book to competing texts, which are just too long, with too many ‘facts.’ Pavlac’s writing is also a plus. His informal tone and his skillful movement from paragraph to paragraph give his work a readability that my students like very much.