East and West

  • Edwin J. Van Kley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8550

As traditionally used in the West, the terms East and West imply that the two are somehow of equal importance. While that might be arguable in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was certainly not true during the long reaches of human history prior to the nineteenth century. By 500 BCE the globe supported four major centers of civilization: the Chinese, the Indian, the Near Eastern, and the Western, considering Greek culture antecedent to what eventually became the West. Of the four the West was probably the least impressive in terms of territory, military power, wealth, and perhaps even traditional culture. Certainly this was the case after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD. From that time until about AD 1500 the West probably should be regarded as a frontier region compared to the other centers of civilization.

From roughly 500 BCE to AD 1500 a cultural balance was obtained between the four major centers of civilization. During these millennia each center...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edwin J. Van Kley

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