Tragedy and Hope A History of the World in Our Time By Carroll Quigley (1966)
"...[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. this system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations...."
"It must not be felt that these heads of the world's chief central banks were themselves substantive powers in world finance. They were not. Rather, they were the technicians and agents of the dominant investment bankers of their own countries, who had raised them up and were perfectly capable of throwing them down. The substantive financial powers of the world were in the hands of these investment bankers (also called 'international' or 'merchant' bankers) who remained largely behind the scenes in their own unincorporated private banks. These formed a system of international cooperation and national dominance which was more private, more powerful, and more secret than that of their agents in the central banks. this dominance of investment bankers was based on their control over the flows of credit and investment funds in their own countries and throughout the world. They could dominate the financial and industrial systems of their own countries by their influence over the flow of current funds though bank loans, the discount rate, and the re-discounting of commercial debts; they could dominate governments by their own control over current government loans and the play of the international exchanges. Almost all of this power was exercised by the personal influence and prestige of men who had demonstrated their ability in the past to bring off successful financial coupes, to keep their word, to remain cool in a crisis, and to share their winning opportunities with their associates."
Part One—Introduction: Western Civilization In Its World Setting Chapter 1—Cultural Evolution in Civilizations
There have always been men who have asked, "Where are we going?" But never, it would seem, have there been so many of them. And surely never before have these myriads of questioners asked their question in such dolorous tones or rephrased their question in such despairing words: "Can man survive?" Even on a less cosmic basis, questioners appear on all sides, seeking "meaning" or "identity," or even, on the most narrowly egocentric basis, "trying to find myself."
One of these persistent questions is typical of the twentieth century rather than of earlier times: Can our way of life survive? Is our civilization doomed to vanish, as did that of the Incas, the Sumerians, and the Romans? From Giovanni Battista Vico in the early eighteenth century to Oswald Spengler in the early twentieth century and Arnold J. Toynbee in our own day, men have been puzzling over the problem whether civilizations have a life cycle and follow a similar pattern of change. From this discussion has emerged a fairly general agreement that men live in separately organized societies, each with its own distinct culture; that some of these societies, having writing and city life, exist on a higher level of culture than the rest, and should be called by the different term "civilizations"; and that these civilizations tend to pass through a common pattern of experience.
From these studies it would seem that civilizations pass through a process of evolution which can be analyzed briefly as follows: each civilization is born in some inexplicable fashion and, after a slow start, enters a period of vigorous expansion, increasing its size and power, both internally and at the expense of its neighbors, until gradually a crisis of organization appears. When this crisis has passed and the civilization has been reorganized, it seems somewhat different. Its vigor and morale have weakened. It becomes stabilized and eventually stagnant. After a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, internal crises again arise. At this point there appears, for the first time, a moral and physical weakness which raises, also for the first time, questions about the civilization's ability to defend itself against external enemies. Racked by internal struggles of a social and constitutional character, weakened by loss of faith in its older ideologies and by the
challenge of newer ideas incompatible with its past nature, the civilization grows steadily weaker until it is submerged by outside enemies, and eventually disappears.
When we come to apply this process, even in this rather vague form, to our own civilization, Western Civilization, we can see that certain modifications are needed. Like other civilizations, our civilization began with a period of mixture of cultural elements from other societies, formed these elements into a culture distinctly its own, began to expand with growing rapidity as others had done, and passed from this period of expansion into a period of crisis. But at that point the pattern changed.
In more than a dozen other civilizations the Age of Expansion was followed by an Age of Crisis, and this, in turn, by a period of Universal Empire in which a single political unit ruled the whole extent of the civilization. Western Civilization, on the contrary, did not pass from the Age of Crisis to the Age of Universal Empire, but instead was able to reform itself and entered upon a new period of expansion. Moreover, Western Civilization did this not once, but several times. It was this ability to reform or reorganize itself again and again which made Western Civilization the dominant factor in the world at the beginning of the twentieth century.
As we look at the three ages forming the central portion of the life cycle of a civilization, we can see a common pattern. The Age of Expansion is generally marked by four kinds of expansion: (1) of population, (2) of geographic area, (3) of production, and (4) of knowledge. The expansion of production and the expansion of knowledge give rise to the expansion of population, and the three of these together give rise to the expansion of geographic extent. This geographic expansion is of some importance because it gives the civilization a kind of nuclear structure made up of an older core area (which had existed as part of the civilization even before the period of expansion) and a newer peripheral area (which became part of the civilization only in the period of expansion and later). If we wish, we can make, as an additional refinement, a third, semi-peripheral area between the core area and the fully peripheral area.
These various areas are readily discernible in various civilizations of the past, and have played a vital role in historic change in these civilizations. In Mesopotamian Civilization (6000 B.C.-300 B.C.) the core area was the lower valley of Mesopotamia; the semi-peripheral area was the middle and upper valley, while the peripheral area included the highlands surrounding this valley, and more remote areas like Iran, Syria, and even Anatolia. The core area of Cretan Civilization (3500 B.C.-1100 B.C.) was the island of Crete, while the peripheral area included the Aegean islands and the Balkan coasts. In Classical Civilization the core area was the shores of the Aegean Sea; the semi- peripheral area was the rest of the northern portion of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, while the peripheral area covered the rest of the Mediterranean shores and ultimately Spain, North Africa, and Gaul. In Canaanite Civilization (2200 B.C.-100 B.C.) the core area was the Levant, while the peripheral area was in the western Mediterranean at Tunis, western Sicily, and eastern Spain. The core area of Western Civilization (A.D. 400 to some time in the future) has been the northern half of Italy, France, the extreme western part of Germany, and England; the semi-peripheral area has been central, eastern, and
southern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, while the peripheral areas have included North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some other areas.
This distinction of at least two geographic areas in each civilization is of major importance. The process of expansion, which begins in the core area, also begins to slow up in the core at a time when the peripheral area is still expanding. In consequence, by the latter part of the Age of Expansion, the peripheral areas of a civilization tend to become wealthier and more powerful than the core area. Another way of saying this is that the core passes from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict before the periphery does. Eventually, in most civilizations the rate of expansion begins to decline everywhere.
It is this decline in the rate of expansion of a civilization which marks its passage from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict. This latter is the most complex, most interesting, and most critical of all the periods of the life cycle of a civilization. It is marked by four chief characteristics: (a) it is a period of declining rate of expansion; (b) it is a period of growing tensions and class conflicts; (c) it is a period of increasingly frequent and increasingly violent imperialist wars; and (d) it is a period of growing irrationality, pessimism, superstitions, and otherworldliness. All these phenomena appear in the core area of a civilization before they appear in more peripheral portions of the society.
The decreasing rate of expansion of the Age of Conflict gives rise to the other characteristics of the age, in part at least. After the long years of the Age of Expansion, people's minds and their social organizations are adjusted to expansion, and it is a very difficult thing to readjust these to a decreasing rate of expansion. Social classes and political units within the civilization try to compensate for the slowing of expansion through normal growth by the use of violence against other social classes or against other political units. From this come class struggles and imperialist wars. The outcomes of these struggles within the civilization are not of vital significance for the future of the civilization itself. What would be of such significance would be the reorganization of the structure of the civilization so that the process of normal growth would be resumed. Because such a reorganization requires the removal of the causes of the civilization's decline, the triumph of one social class over another or of one political unit over another, within the civilization, will not usually have any major influence on the causes of the decline, and will not (except by accident) result in such a reorganization of structure as will give rise to a new period of expansion. Indeed, the class struggles and imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict will probably serve to increase the speed of the civilization's decline because they dissipate capital and divert wealth and energies from productive to nonproductive activities.
In most civilizations the long-drawn agony of the Age of Conflict finally ends in a new period, the Age of the Universal Empire. As a result of the imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict, the number of political units in the civilization are reduced by conquest. Eventually one emerges triumphant. When this occurs we have one political unit for the whole civilization. Just at the core area passes from the Age of Expansion to the Age of
Conflict earlier than the peripheral areas, sometimes the core area is conquered by a single state before the whole civilization is conquered by the Universal Empire. When this occurs the core empire is generally a semi-peripheral state, while the Universal Empire is generally a peripheral state. Thus, Mesopotamia's core was conquered by semi- peripheral Babylonia about 1700 B.C., while the whole of Mesopotamian civilization was conquered by more peripheral Assyria about 7 2 5 H.C. (replaced by fully peripheral Persia about 525 B.C.). In Classical Civilization the core area was conquered by semi- peripheral Macedonia about 336 B.C., while the whole civilization was conquered by peripheral Rome about 146 B.C. In other civilizations the Universal Empire has consistently been a peripheral state even when there was no earlier conquest of the core area by a semi-peripheral state. In Mayan Civilization (1000 B.C.-A.D. 1550) the core area was apparently in Yucatan and Guatemala, but the Universal Empire of the Aztecs centered in the peripheral highlands of central Mexico. In Andean Civilization (1500 B.C.-A.D. 1600) the core areas were on the lower slopes and valleys of the central and northern Andes, but the Universal Empire of the Incas centered in the highest Andes, a peripheral area. The Canaanite Civilization (2200 B.C.-146 B.C.) had its core area in the Levant, but its Universal Empire, the Punic Empire, centered at Carthage in the western Mediterranean. If we turn to the Far East we see no less than three civilizations. Of these the earliest, Sinic Civilization, rose in the valley of the Yellow River after 2000 B.C., culminated in the Chin and Han empires after 200 B.C., and was largely destroyed by Ural-Altaic invaders after A.D. 400. From this Sinic Civilization, in the same way in which Classical Civilization emerged from Cretan Civilization or Western Civilization emerged from Classical Civilization, there emerged two other civilizations: (a) Chinese Civilization, which began about A.D. 400, culminated in the Manchu Empire after 1644, and was disrupted by European invaders in the period 1790-1930, and (b) Japanese Civilization, which began about the time of Christ, culminated in the Tokugawa Empire after 1600, and may have been completely disrupted by invaders from Western Civilization in the century following 1853.
In India, as in China, two civilizations have followed one another. Although we know relatively little about the earlier of the two, the later (as in China) culminated in a Universal Empire ruled by an alien and peripheral people. Indic Civilization, which began about 3500 B.C., was destroyed by Aryan invaders about 1700 B.C. Hindu Civilization, which emerged from Indic Civilization about 1700 B.C., culminated in the Mogul Empire and was destroyed by invaders from Western Civilization in the period 1500-1900.
Turning to the extremely complicated area of the Near East, we can see a similar pattern. Islamic Civilization, which began about A.D. 500, culminated in the Ottoman Empire in the period 1300-1600 and has been in the process of being destroyed by invaders from Western Civilization since about 1750.
Expressed in this way, these patterns in the life cycles of various civilizations may seem confused. But if we tabulate them, the pattern emerges with some simplicity.
From this table a most extraordinary fact emerges. Of approximately twenty civilizations which have existed in all of human history, we have listed sixteen. Of these sixteen, twelve, possibly fourteen, are already dead or dying, their cultures destroyed by outsiders able to come in with sufficient power to disrupt the civilization, destroy its established modes of thought and action, and eventually wipe it out. Of these twelve dead or dying cultures, six have been destroyed by Europeans bearing the culture of Western Civilization. When we consider the untold numbers of other societies, simpler than civilizations, which Western Civilization has destroyed or is now destroying, societies such as the Hottentots, the Iroquois, the Tasmanians, the Navahos, the Caribs, and countless others, the full frightening power of Western Civilization becomes obvious.
Universal Final Their Civilization Its Dates Empire Invasion Dates
Mesopotamian 6000 B.C.- Assyrian/ Greeks 335 B.C.- 300 B.C. Persian— 300 B.C.
725-333 B.C. Egyptian 5500 B. C.- Egyptian Greeks
300 B. C. 300 B. C.
334 B. C.-
1200 B. C.- 1000 B. C.
1800 B. C.-
264 B. C. -
A. D. 200
Cretan 3500 B. C.- Minoan- 1150 B. C. Mycenaean
Indic 3500 B. C. - 1700 B. C.
Canaanite 2200 B. C. - 100 B. C.
Sinic 2000 B. C. - A. D. 400 Han
Harappa? 1600 B. C.
Punic Romans 146 B. C.
1150 B. C. -
Indo- 1200 B. C. - A. D. 1000
Germanic A. D. 350 -
A. D. 500 1500 B. C. -
A. D. 1600 1000 B. C. -
A. D. 1550 1800 B. C. -
A. D. 1900 400 - Manchu
1900 Europeans 1790 -
1853 - 1750 -
1930 Tokugawa Ottoman
United States? Soviet
Japanese Islamic Western Orthodox 350 - ?
850 B. C. - ? 500 B. C. - ?
Future? ? Future? ?
350 - ?
One cause, although by no means the chief cause, of the ability of Western Civilization to destroy other cultures rests on the fact that it has been expanding for a long time. This fact, in turn, rests on another condition to which we have already alluded, the fact that Western Civilization has passed through three periods of expansion, has entered into an Age of Conflict three times, each time has had its core area conquered almost completely by a single political unit, but has failed to go on to the Age of the Universal Empire because from the confusion of the Age of Conflict there emerged each time a new organization of society capable of expanding by its own organizational powers, with the result that the four phenomena characteristic of the Age of Conflict (decreasing rate of expansion, class conflicts, imperialist wars, irrationality) were gradually replaced once again by the four kinds of expansion typical of an Age of Expansion (demographic, geographic, production, knowledge). From a narrowly technical point of view, this shift from an Age of Conflict to an Age of Expansion is marked by a resumption of the investment of capital and the accumulation of capital on a large scale, just as the earlier shift from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict was marked by a decreasing rate of investment and eventually by a decreasing rate of accumulation of capital.
Western Civilization began, as all civilizations do, in a period of cultural mixture. In this particular case it was a mixture resulting from the barbarian invasions which destroyed Classical Civilization in the period 350-700. By creating a new culture from the various elements offered from the barbarian tribes, the Roman world, the Saracen world, and above all the Jewish world (Christianity), Western Civilization became a new society.
This society became a civilization when it became organized, in the period 700-970, so that there was accumulation of capital and the beginnings of the investment of this capital in new methods of production. These new methods are associated with a change from infantry forces to mounted warriors in defense, from manpower (and thus slavery) to animal power in energy use, from the scratch plow and two-field, fallow agricultural technology of Mediterranean Europe to the eight-oxen, gang plow and three-field system of the Germanic peoples, and from the centralized, state-centered political orientation of the Roman world to the decentralized, private-power feudal network of the medieval world. In the new system a small number of men, equipped and trained to fight, received dues and services from the overwhelming majority of men who were expected to till the soil. From this inequitable but effective defensive system emerged an inequitable distribution of political power and, in turn, an inequitable distribution of the social economic income. This, in time, resulted in an accumulation of capital, which, by giving rise to demand for luxury goods of remote origin, began to shift the whole economic emphasis of the society from its earlier organization in self-sufficient agrarian units (manors) to commercial interchange, economic specialization, and, by the thirteenth century, to an entirely new pattern of society with towns, a bourgeois class, spreading literacy, growing freedom of alternative social choices, and new, often disturbing, thoughts.
From all this came the first period of expansion of Western Civilization, covering the years 970-1270. At the end of this period, the organization of society was becoming a petrified collection of vested interests, investment was decreasing, and the rate of expansion was beginning to fall. Accordingly, Western Civilization, for the first time, entered upon the Age of Conflict. This period, the time of the Hundred Years' War, the Black Death, the great heresies, and severe class conflicts, lasted from about 1270 to 1420. By the end of it, efforts were arising from England and Burgundy to conquer the eve of Western Civilization. But, just at that moment, a new Age of Expansion, using a new organization of society which circumvented the old vested interests of the feudal- manorial system, began.
This new Age of Expansion, frequently called the period of commercial capitalism, lasted from about 1440 to about 1680. The real impetus to economic expansion during the period came from efforts to obtain profits by the interchange of goods, especially semi-luxury or luxury goods, over long distances. In time, this system of commercial capitalism became petrified into a structure of vested interests in which profits were sought by imposing restrictions on the production or interchange of goods rather than by encouraging these activities. This new vested-interest structure, usually called mercantilism, became such a burden on economic activities that the rate of expansion of
economic life declined and even gave rise to a period of economic decline in the decades immediately following 1690. The class struggles and imperialist wars engendered by this Age of Conflict are sometimes called the Second Hundred Years' War. The wars continued until 1815, and the class struggles even later. As a result of the former, France by 1810 had conquered most of the eve of Western Civilization. But here, just as had occurred in 1420 when England had also conquered part of the core of the civilization toward the latter portion of an Age of Conflict, the victory was made meaningless because a new period of expansion began. Just as commercial capitalism had circumvented the petrified institution of the feudal-manorial system (chivalry) after 1440, so industrial capitalism circumvented the petrified institution of commercial capitalism (mercantilism) after 1820.
The new Age of Expansion which made Napoleon's military-political victory of 1810 impossible to maintain had begun in England long before. It appeared as the Agricultural Revolution about 1725 and as the Industrial Revolution about 1775, but it did not get started as a great burst of expansion until after 1820. Once started, it moved forward with an impetus such as the world had never seen before, and it looked as if Western Civilization might cover the whole globe. The dates of this third Age of Expansion might be fixed at 1770-1929, following upon the second Age of Conflict of 1690-1815. The social organization which was at the center of this new development might be called "industrial capitalism." In the course of the last decade of the nineteenth century, it began to become a structure of vested interests to which we might give the name "monopoly capitalism." As early, perhaps, as 1890, certain aspects of a new Age of Conflict, the third in Western Civilization, began to appear, especially in the core area, with a revival of imperialism, of class struggle, of violent warfare, and of irrationalities.
By 1930 it was clear that Western Civilization was again in an Age of Conflict; by 1942 a semi-peripheral state, Germany, had conquered much of the core of the civilization. That effort was defeated by calling into the fray a peripheral state (the United States) and another, outside civilization (the Soviet society). It is not yet clear whether Western Civilization will continue along the path marked by so many earlier civilizations, or whether it will be able to reorganize itself sufficiently to enter upon a new, fourth, Age of Expansion. If the former occurs, this Age of Conflict will undoubtedly continue with the fourfold characteristics of class struggle, war, irrationality, and declining progress. In this case, we shall undoubtedly get a Universal Empire in which the United States will rule most of Western Civilization. This will be followed, as in other civilizations, by a period of decay and ultimately, as the civilization grows weaker, by invasions and the total destruction of Western culture. On the other hand, if Western Civilization is able to reorganize itself and enters upon a fourth Age of Expansion, the ability of Western Civilization to survive and go on to increasing prosperity and power will be bright. Leaving aside this hypothetical future, it would appear thus that Western Civilization, in approximately fifteen hundred years, has passed through eight periods, thus:
1. Mixture 350-700
2. 3A. 4A.
Gestation, 700-970 First Expansion, 970-1270 First Conflict, 1270-1440
Core Empire: England, 1420 Second Expansion, 1440-1690 Second Conflict, 1690-1815
Core Empire: France, 1810 Third Expansion, 1770-1929 Third Conflict, 1893-
Core Empire: Germany, 1942 The two possibilities which lie in the future can be listed as follows: Reorganization Continuation of the Process 3D. Fourth Expansion, 1944- 5. Universal Empire (the United States)
7. Invasion (end of the civilization)
From the list of civilizations previously given, it becomes somewhat easier to see how Western Civilization was able to destroy (or is still destroying) the cultures of six other civilizations. In each of these six cases the victim civilization had already passed the period of Universal Empire and was deep in the Age of Decay. In such a situation Western Civilization played a role as invader similar to that played by the Germanic tribes in Classical Civilization, by the Dorians in Cretan Civilization, by the Greeks in Mesopotamian or Egyptian Civilization, by the Romans in Canaanite Civilization, or by the Ayrans in Indic Civilization. The Westerners who burst in upon the Aztecs in 1519, on the Incas in 1534, on the Mogul Empire in the eighteenth century, on the Manchu Empire after 1790, on the Ottoman Empire after 1774, and on the Tokugawa Empire after 1853 were performing the same role as the Visigoths and the other barbarian tribes to the Roman Empire after 377. In each case, the results of the collision of two civilizations, one in the Age of Expansion and the other in the Age of Decay, was a foregone conclusion. Expansion would destroy Decay.
In the course of its various expansions Western Civilization has collided with only one civilization which was not already in the stage of decay. This exception was its half- brother, so to speak, the civilization now represented by the Soviet Empire. It is not clear what stage this "Orthodox" Civilization is in, but it clearly is not in its stage of decay. It would appear that Orthodox Civilization began as a period of mixture (500-1300) and is now in its second period of expansion. The first period of expansion, covering 1500- 1900, had just begun to change into an Age of Conflict (1900-1920) when the vested interests of the society were wiped away by the defeat at the hands of Germany in 1917 and replaced by a new organization of society which gave rise to a second Age of Expansion (since 1921). During much of the last four hundred years culminating in the twentieth century, the fringes of Asia have been occupied by a semicircle of old dying civilizations (Islamic, Hindu, Chinese, Japanese). These have been under pressure from Western Civilization coming in from the oceans and from Orthodox Civilization pushing outward from the heart of the Eurasian land mass. The Oceanic pressure began with Vasco da Gama in India in 1498, culminated aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945, and still continued with the Anglo-French attack on Suez in 1956. The Russian pressure from the continental heartland was applied to the inner frontiers of China, Iran, and Turkey from the seventeenth century to the present. Much of the world's history in the twentieth century has arisen from the interactions of these three factors (the continental heartland of Russian power, the shattered cultures of the Buffer Fringe of Asia, and the oceanic powers of Western Civilization).