5 Page Analytical Essay

In your five-page analytical essay, you will corroborate or refute a main argument of my book (see list below). State the argument clearly, using brief quotations if possible and page references from The Rise of Western Power.

Present solid arguments and evidence from at least four outside sources (the textbook does not count as an outside source). For your outside sources, use only scholarly works, such as articles from our library search engine, and books by university presses. Cite full bibliographical references (see Essay Mechanics below).

Fill out the and send to your TA for feedback and guidance the Analytical Essay Worksheet(You will receive one point toward your analytical essay score after you completely fill out the worksheet and can receive a second point for thoroughly revising it under the supervision of your teaching assistant.)

Consider showing drafts of your work to either your TA or me for comments and suggestions (drafts will be accepted only until the Friday before the final week of class).

How to Research Your Topic

Let’s say that you have decided to test the following contention of the book: “Fear of speculative philosophy stifled Islamic intellectual development after al-Ghazali.” Do a series of searches using Google, such as “stifled Islamic intellectual development al-Ghazali” and “Islamic philosophical stagnation al-Ghazali” and “philosophical stagnation al-Ghazali, etc.” In each case, be sure to click on the option “more” and select from the drop-down menu “books.” Take a close look at all of the entries that seem promising based on the brief summaries. Some books, for which there is only a “snippet view” will be worth checking out of the library. You will also have to check out of the library those books that Google Books does not allow you to view adequately. If any particular book is unavailable at our library, be sure to try I-Share (books usually arrive within a week).

Search similar phrases in our library search engine. You can undertake the same kind of searches for any of the major arguments of the textbook. Finding the appropriate phrases to search can be a little tricky, so be sure to play around with potential phrasing.

See also the Research Methods in History page developed by our librarians. For other library resources, click here.

Here are the contentions:

Major Contentions of The Rise of Western Power

The statements listed below are often paraphrases of statements in the textbook. Once you select the statement that interests you the most, you need to find the precise wording in the book itself, place it inside quotation marks, and to provide a corresponding page number reference in your analytical essay.


Europeans’ willingness to learn from others and to try new things is the main cause of the West’s rise.

Chapter 1

Innovation—conceiving and bringing to life brilliant ideas—can largely explain the rise of civilization and the successes of human cultures.

Fear of speculative philosophy stifled Islamic intellectual development after al-Ghazali.

The greatest Chinese inventions transformed the world but not China.

India’s contribution to world history may almost have equaled China’s.

Only near-perfect geographical, cultural, and historical conditions made possible the explosion of innovation achieved in Europe.

Chapter 2

A social revolution in its own right, feudal society marked the triumph of social over state power.

Starting in medieval Europe, labor was more respected than in other world cultures.

Autonomy of cities and guilds increased freedom of talented people, which led to innovation.

Europeans could “act far more effectively, as members of a group,” than could other peoples of the world.

Neither the Chinese, nor the Indians, nor the Muslims, nor any other people systematically and extensively used labor-saving devices as much as the medieval and early modern Europeans.

Medieval Europe was perhaps the first society to build an economy on nonhuman power.

An autonomous culture of timekeeping controlled by individuals and authorities at every level of society emerged first and for a long time only in Europe.

While remaining socially inferior to men, women enjoyed more liberties in the West than in other cultures.

In Europe, women scholars, scientists, philosophers, and writers slowly grew more numerous beginning in the Middle Ages, whereas in China and the Islamic world the number declined after the ninth or tenth centuries.

No other civilization expressed itself in such radically different artistic styles during an extended period of time.

Chapter 3

Benedictine monks were the first elites in history who did not scorn manual labor.

Of the great world religions, none has more sophisticated philosophic underpinnings than Christianity.

Christianity experienced powerful movements for renewal throughout its history, far more frequently and consequentially than any other major religion.

The role of the law in the West distinguished it from all other civilizations.

Universities in medieval Europe enjoyed more autonomy and were thus intellectually more innovative than institutions of higher learning in other civilizations.

An entirely new—and uniquely Western—mechanism for solidifying kingship were the assemblies of estates, parliaments, diets, and other like bodies that emerged all over Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The struggle between Church and State divided loyalties in Europe and pushed the West towards a separation of Church and State and in the long run encouraged the rise of constitutional forms of government.

A balanced political division of spiritual and secular forces never occurred in the other great civilizations.

Chapter 4

Of all the regions of the world during the medieval era, Europe witnessed the most ferocious combat.

The move toward infantry empowered the commons in Switzerland, England, and Holland by giving rise to representative institutions.

Europeans fought more fiercely and shed more blood than other peoples.

Non-Europeans tended to take prisoners in order the enslave them.

Castles created a unique balance of power in Europe by allowing small states to survive and therefore enabling political fragmentation.

European political fragmentation created hothouse conditions for innovation and almost constant warfare.

Chapter 5

In the Middle Ages, Europe was beginning to prove itself more capable of coordinating extensive and intensive activity within a politically and religiously fragmented context than was any other civilization.

Medieval and early modern Europeans were far more interested in the wider world than peoples of other major cultures.

The Crusades proved that Europe was more capable of coordinating large activities within a politically and religiously fragmented context than any other civilization

The Europeans’ discovery of the New World, their mercantile dynamism, business acumen, and extraordinary innovativeness made possible the emergence of a world economy in the sixteenth century.

Europeans exchanged ideas, traveled, shared inspirations, conversed widely, worked together, and forged collaborative bonds and institutions far more than peoples in other cultures in the early modern period.

It seems that curiosity about the entire wider world gradually became a peculiarly European phenomenon.

Chapter 6

Europe beginning in the early modern period was characterized by greater sociability and other cultures.

Only libraries in the Mediterranean world attained any sustained, massive scale. And only in Europe did such efforts reach a tipping point beyond which accumulation built upon accumulation.

People in Western societies came together more readily than in other societies to solve problems of all kinds.

Europeans displayed an insatiable appetite for the exotic and the novel.

The history of Western civilization is far better documented than that of any other culture.

Early modern Europeans access to a far greater range of printed matter than any other people in history thanks to the printing revolution.

Moveable-type printing transformed the world of learning and information—as well as of practice and action—more radically than any other.

Chapter 7

The Reformation empowered ordinary people more than any other social or political movement until modern times.

The Reformation’s most profound contribution to the development of Western civilization was not religious renewal, but the end of all central authority in Europe.

If political fragmentation helps account for the dynamism, innovativeness, transformative power, and material success of Europe before 1500, then it seems likely that the continuation of these features was made possible in part by the cultural and theological fragmentation brought about by the Reformation.

Chapter 8

Modern science emerged in early modern Europe from a high intensity of exploration and information sharing by a vast and interconnected intellectual community drawing on millennia of scientific understanding.

By the mid-1300s, intellectual ferment, rigorous scholarship, diversity of approaches, and a fever to explore distinguished Europe from all other possible rivals in the world.

The world’s other great civilizations lacked the freewheeling criticism and inquiry, the diversity of patrons and funding sources, and the avid thirst for knowledge and delight in novelty that characterized Europe in the late medieval and Renaissance periods.

Europeans from the high Middle Ages engaged in quantifying nearly every conceivable object. In no other societies had the power of numbers and measurement so pervaded the culture, so empowered artisans and professionals, and so increased efficiency and output.

No other culture matched the European intellectual ferment, institutionalized scholarly research, and profusion of means for sharing the fruits of research.

Muslim scholars and researchers from Persia to Iberia made almost numberless contributions to the advancement of science and learning until the twelfth century and then all but stopped.

Ibn al-Shatir and other Muslim thinkers helped a scientific renaissance in medieval Christendom but not in the Islamic world.

In early modern Europe, human knowledge expanded more systematically, intensively, and expansively than ever before in history.

Early modern Europe was a society dynamically questioning all things, systematizing all things, investigating all things, and therefore constantly advancing human knowledge and understanding.

There were scientific advancements in other civilizations, but only Europeans embraced it and heavily applied it to their civilization.

Nothing even remotely as comprehensive had ever appeared anywhere in the world as the encyclopedia edited by Denis Diderot (1751-1772) in 35 volumes with 71,818 articles—all alphabetized—and 3,129 illustrations.

People of the West in the 1700s—now meaning Europeans and Americans—grew more and more practically skilled and knowledgeable and therefore more powerful and ultimately more rich.

Chapter 9

Legal protections of property and business owners throughout Europe began to emerge in the Middle Ages.

The rise of the West stemmed in part from Europeans’ desire for comestible substances with no nutritional value—from pepper to tobacco.

Early modern Europeans had a willingness to try new things, bordering on recklessness.

From at least the sixteenth century, especially in northwestern Europe, people began to marry later than people in other cultures, roughly age 24 for women and 26 for men.

Sometimes a lack of resources can bring out the inventiveness of a people, however, just as an abundance of them can stifle innovation and impede economic progress.

The physical control of territory was clearly unnecessary to British prosperity. Presumably just opening connections and creating a network of close international relations between Britain and far-flung regions of the globe stimulated economic development.

Once one factors in the costs of administration and defense in the colonies borne by London, the net benefits to society as a whole were minuscule.

The range and accuracy of financial information available in Holland and Great Britain in the 1600s-1700s, along with much greater access to capital, made it difficult for financiers and entrepreneurs in other parts of the world to compete with the major banks and trading companies of Amsterdam and London.

Chapter 10

More than in any other region of the world, Europe enjoyed favorable circumstances for the emergence of liberty and political pluralism. Foremost and fundamentally, political fragmentation made it impossible for any ruler to dominate the continent.

More than in any other society of the world—then or before—individuals and collectives limited the power of princes.

Folk councils and local alliances gathered for decision-making throughout the world then and before, but none outside Europe evolved into enduring institutional forms.

The Islamic and Chinese societies were far more austere than European societies, with very few intermediary bodies standing between the ruler and the ruled.

The fragmentation of political authority in Europe made it impossible, at least by the standards of the great authoritarian empires like the Chinese and Ottoman, for rulers to impose intellectual and political conformity, to levy crushing taxes, or to stifle innovation.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the main pillar of Roman Catholic theological thought for hundreds of years, defended rebellion against tyranny. One can scarcely imagine such an intellectual position in the other great civilizations.

A series of political revolutions starting in the late Middle Ages established political participation, pluralism, and freedom as Western hallmarks.

Chapter 11

Whereas thousands of Europeans visited China for business, exploration, scientific and cultural pursuits, or missionary work in 1500-1800, only two or three hundred Chinese, mostly Christian converts, traveled to Europe, typically to Rome or Naples.

The development of patent law in Venice from 1474, apparently the first in world history, played an important role in stimulating inventiveness, by increasing the precision of technical description and preserving details of technological advances.

By the 1700s, knowledge was advancing faster than ever before in history in the West. Knowledge continued to advance in the other great civilizations but in more compartmentalized ways.

Europe’s brightest minds grew ever more practically oriented during the three centuries leading to the Enlightenment.

Educated and practically minded people advanced human knowledge and understanding in tandem across Europe yet nowhere so much as in Great Britain in the eighteenth century.

In eighteenth century Britain, for the first time in history, human beings were reaching a point of incessant, constantly accelerating, and mutually reinforcing scientific and technological advancement.

Ingenuity, cross-fertilization of scientific and technical expertise, favorable social and economic conditions, and dynamic entrepreneurship caused Britain’s industrial transformation rather than the juxtaposition of coal and iron ore deposits or the exploitation of colonies.

Chapter 12

The Homestead Act of 1862 devolved more land and ultimately more wealth to more ordinary people more quickly than ever before or since in human history.

The story of Western innovation and advancement has consisted in an ever-increasing mastery of knowledge and information. Europeans and then Americans and other peoples of the West acquired, stored, organized, shared, and exploited more knowledge about the world, nature, man, and abstract ideas than any other civilization or culture in history, vastly more. They used this mental prowess to gain mastery over the physical realm, to increase their wealth and power, and to raise the standard of living of most people in the West and then also in the wider world.

Europe’s colonies almost never paid for themselves, enriching only some individuals or companies, and did not magically give access to commodities unavailable through open trading.

The West’s raw physical power, apparent scientific mastery of nature, efficient and dynamic economy, and myriad technological advantages provoked a broader moral crisis involving aggressive ideologies justifying and lauding violence and struggle as central to human existence.

World War I was a philosophically absurd conflict.

The twentieth-century totalitarian dictatorships stemmed from rebellions against Western values: individual freedom, democracy, political and economic decentralization, the rule of law, and the free and open pursuit of every form of knowledge and self-expression.

Communism and Nazism exhibited striking similarities: charismatic leaders with absolute power advocating revolutionary transformation, fervent supporters ready to use violent repression, no civil rights, all-embracing political parties.

Fascist parties flourished best in those countries with the weakest institutions of self-government and civil society.

The West rose by liberating human creativity and initiative. The Communist and Nazi dictatorships, by contrast, sought to mobilize entire populations toward centrally determined plans and goals.

The USSR produced almost no goods or services salable on the international market. Yet its leadership was ideologically committed to competition for world preeminence. Thus, it became oriented above all toward military supremacy.

A Communist system could survive and prosper by imitating Western economic methods like China but not by adopting Western political practices and values like the USSR. In the long run, though, unconstrained contacts with non-Communist peoples and ways of life threatened the existence of Communism.

The peoples of the West were not inherently more creative, but they built up and lived in societies affording them far greater latitude for creativity—for trying new things, for innovating.

Chapter 14

The middle class was the primary agent of innovation in the modern West.

Americans created a society with the greatest grassroots social, political, and economic activism in history.

A genius of modern Western society lay in sanctioning the participation of tens of millions of people in resolving social problems and opening channels for the free exchange of ideas.

The greater participation of women in the social, political, economic, and cultural life of the West contributed to its success in modern times.

The average person in Western societies by the second half of the 20th century came to enjoy material amenities available only to the rich in previous times and places.

Europeans were the first peoples in history who rejected slavery root and branch for philosophical reasons.

The concept and enforcement of human rights was a Western innovation.

The ideal of universal brotherhood, which stemmed from a fusion of Christian faith and rational Enlightenment thinking, engendered in the West a commitment to rejecting every form of discrimination.

Openness, pluralism, a thirst for knowledge and sharing information, a commitment to rationality and the rule of law, respect for persons, and individual initiative are precisely the values that enabled the West to rise.

The European thirst for knowledge about humankind, attitude of self-criticism, and religious tolerance starting after the religious wars gave birth during the Enlightenment to a passionate promotion by some intellectuals of the equality of all persons and even peoples, no matter their religious, ethnic, gender, and racial distinctions.


The great civilizations flourished because they developed important skills or mastered powerful knowledge. They declined or entered stasis by failing to continue to adapt.

Societies that encourage to the greatest extent the pursuit of learning, information-sharing, human interaction, reflection, publication, scientific investigation, and scholarly inquiry will almost certainly achieve more innovation, a higher standard of living, and a greater concentration of power than similar societies that do not.

The rise of the West has been an information revolution coming to fuller and fuller fruition for one thousand years.

In no other civilization has the capacity for both cooperative undertakings and individual self-expression been more fully realized.

For a half-millennium after the year 1000, Europeans absorbed priceless treasures of learning and wisdom from the great Eurasian civilizations. Then for the next few hundred years, nearly all the world’s most significant technological innovations came from the West.

More than other civilizations, the West invested humans with rights and liberties, evolved an ethics of toleration, emphasized the rule of law, developed institutions of political participation and self-government, endowed individuals and communities with spiritual authority, created institutions and procedures for building up and sharing information, and a host of other means of empowerment.

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