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Survey of world history


FIVE EPOCHS OF CIVILIZATION - World History as Emerging in Five Civilizations: William McGaughey; Thistlerose Publications, 1702, Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A. $.18.95.

``WORLD HISTORY gives clues to the origin of contemporary society. Its knowledge will help to explain things that may seem illogical or obscure about the world in which we live today,'' says the author who has presented the history of our civilization in five epochs of historical experience and associates each with distinct qualities and themes. In a brilliant analysis of the march of the world history, he has recognised the contributions of different lands and races to the sum total of cultural evolution. ``Civilisations are not societies which rise and fall in recurring cycles but cultural systems which build upon the work of the predecessors''.

The author is able to see a pattern in the world history. The culmination of the first civilization was the formation of four world empires which dominated the old world in the second century A.D., the Roman, Parthian, Kushan and Han Chinese. Then barbarians overran the civilised empires and this epoch came to an end.

The second epoch began in the middle of the first millennium B.C., when an extraordinary group of philosophers, prophets and religious thinkers lived. It is mainly the story of three world religions - Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. In the end, the world religions fought one another, mimicking the political empires and turned public sentiment against them.

The third epoch began with territorial and cultural outburst of the European civilization associated with the Renaissance. The early voyages and transoceanic discoveries gave way to political and commercial rivalries between Atlantic nations, to colonisation and enslavement of non- European people, to scientific, industrial and democratic revolutions and to wars with advanced weaponry culminating in World Wars I and II. In the end the world was caught up in European adventure producing a backlash.

Civilization in the fourth epoch turned to popular entertainment and light-hearted diversions to help them relax. With the invention of electronic devices, this culture became connected to ``mass media'' - motion picture, radio and TV rock'n roll music created ``international youth culture''. All these subverted organised religions, diverted children's attention and took over the merchandising of commercial products. Now in the fourth epoch, humanity stands on the brink of a fifth civilization sparked by computer technology. Its history, being mostly in future, is speculative.

According to the author, each civilization began with the introduction of a new dominant cultural technology. The first civilization began with systems of primitive or ideographic writing; the second with alphabetic writing; the third with printing in Europe; the fourth with electronic technologies of communication and the fifth, with computer technology.

In addition to short histories of each of the four civilizations, this book includes a history of the cultural technologies and their relationship with personal or social values, the process of the society's development into a system of increasingly complex and pluralistic institution, identify changing beliefs and models of personality in the successive civilizations.

The computer age is upon us and it would make revolutionary changes in the world of communication, commerce, education and information technology. The most profound result may be man's use of computers as a tool to remake himself; computers can handle the extensive information contained in the structure of DNA molecules. They have the potential to replicate processes of the human mind. In this ``Frankenstein civilization'' man and machine will forge a common future ``which is at once dangerous and exciting in its far-reaching possibilities''. Thus, the author has given an incisive survey of world history as emerging in five civilization epochs.

K. V. RAMAN

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