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  • And you call yourself civilised?
  • The history of the West is not quite what you learned in school
  • Josephine Quinn’s new book re-examines what people think they know about civilisations
  • How the World Made the West. By Josephine Quinn. Random House; 592 pages; $38. Bloomsbury; £30

    ASKED WHAT he thought of Western civilisation, Mahatma Gandhi is said to have quipped that such a thing “would be a good idea”. (The West, he suggested, was not so enlightened.) But as Josephine Quinn makes clear in her new book, Western civilisation has always been a bad idea, or at any rate a wrong-headed one. To compartmentalise history into a set of distinct and essentially self-contained civilisations is a misguided quest that has dangerously distorted our understanding of the world, Ms Quinn asserts: “It is not peoples that make history, but people, and the connections that they create with one another.”

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