Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West

Anthony Pagden, Author . Random $29.95 (625p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6067-2

In the pessimistic words of the ancient historian Herodotus, there will ever be “perpetual enmity” between the globe’s two halves. Pagden (Peoples and Empires ), a professor of political science and history at UCLA, tackles the immense sweep of 2,500 years of bad blood and seeks to explain the feud’s continuing existence despite the increasing erosion of national differences. Does the trouble have geographical roots, or might it stem from religious differences? Pagden is convinced that in fact East and West are separated more by values and culture than by anything else—democratic vs. authoritarian rule, secular vs. theocratic and, later, Christian vs. Muslim. Though some readers might cavil at Pagden’s reductionist assertion that religion has “caused more lasting harm to the human race than any other single set of beliefs,” his book is an accessible and lucid exploration of the history of the East-West split, concluding with a nuanced look at the divisions and misapprehensions that continue to the present time. Fans of Jacques Barzun and Jared Diamond will be most impressed by Pagden’s “big picture” perspective. (Mar. 4)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008
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