What the Editors Are Reading: January 2021

First the crazies tore down statues they deemed offensive. Next they vandalized churches. Then they demanded trigger warnings on classic movies like Gone with the Wind and Blazing Saddles. If these monsters ever discover libraries, books will be next. Let me suggest you hoard copies of William McNeill’s The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963) before they shred them. In these savages’ simple minds, McNeill’s ethnocentric title alone will justify the book’s eradication. Even Chronicles’ readers may find McNeill’s conclusions insensitive at times, as when he wrote, “The loss to human culture involved in the Spanish extirpation of Amerindian civilizations does not therefore seem very great.”

McNeill’s tour de force covers Middle Eastern predominance up to 500 B.C., then focuses on Eurasia from then to A.D. 1500, all as prelude to what he calls the “Western dominance” that followed. Despite its political incorrectness, Rise presents more than two millennia of non-Western history as the foundation of the West’s rise.

McNeill writes history the correct way, in which truth is allowed to offend insecure tribes, entrenched interests, and implacable ideologues. To cheers and jeers, he summarized the West’s increasingly global presence: “Indeed, world history...

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