The Origins of Western Civilization

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Photographic Print

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Photographic Print
Panoramic Images
24 in. x 8 in.

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The Development of western history occurred within a context shared by many other cultures: an economy and society based on agricultural production. Within this broad framework of agricultural society a host of differences might develop. In political organization, for example, it has been argued that where agriculture depends on irrigation, which in turn involves close coordination of human effort, authoritarian political systems are particularly likely--e.g., ancient Egypt or China.

Religions could vary widely. But there are certain broad similarities within all societies dependent on agriculture, and before turning to the western variants it is well to outline the basic context. Furthermore, since the first breakthrough in agricultural society occurred in the West with industrialization, an understanding of some of the normal limitations of agriculture gives us a realistic goal in an overview of the later evolution of western civilization. What particular set of quirks and values, for example, led the West into replacing agriculture and the countryside with industry and the city as the normal environment for human life?

The basic points about agricultural society may seem obvious, but we rarely examine their complex impact in forming an idea of what that society actually was. First, most people worked the land and did not live in cities. Civilizations around the Mediterranean, including ancient Greek and Roman but also recent Italian cultures, were more highly urbanized than most, for many farmers lived in towns and traveled out to their fields. They might thus maintain urban values. But as a general rule no more than twenty percent of a population in an agricultural society lived in cities, and the percentage was usually less than this.

Civilization, however, has an urban bias; the word derives from the ancient designation for the city. But here we face a dichotomy, which is our second main point about agricultural societies. The cities lived off the countryside economically, but the farmers were often remote from urban culture and might be regarded as positively uncivilized. This is not a fair judgment, though it is true that many key ideas began in cities and spread only slowly to the rural majority. A totally rural society had neither leisure nor enough diversity to produce the high culture we most readily identify with civilization--polished music, formal drama, and so on. So what we regard most readily as "civilized" typifies the minority. It may be more interesting and important to determine what the values of the rural majority were. Urban concepts rarely were adapted without some distinctively rural twists.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Terrace at Sainte-Adresse, 1867

The Terrace at Sainte-Adresse, 1867
Claude Monet
12 in. x 9 in.

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In its palatial building on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street The Metropolitan Museum of Art displays famous collections of architecture, sculpture, paintings, prints, arms and armor, and decorative arts in 325,811 square feet of exhibition floor space. The paintings fill thirty-two galleries and represent the chief national schools of art; special attention is given to paintings by American artists. Well known among the many works shown are a diptych with "The Crucifixion" and "The Last Judgment," "The Horse Fair," and "Washington Crossing the Delaware."

The decorative arts include woodwork, metalwork, ceramics, enamels, glass and textiles. The Pierpont Morgan collection of European decorative arts occupies a wing by itself; another entire wing, the gift of Robert W. de Forest, is devoted to early American art. In the latter, The American Wing, is a popular collection, which emphasizes the domestic architecture and decorative arts of the United States from the 17th century to the first quarter of the 19th century. Other collections represent ancient art, comprising Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Assyrian, and other antiquities, and the art of the Middle Ages and the Near and the Far East. The Bishop collection of jade is the finest outside the Orient.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey Beach Scene

Long Beach Island, New Jersey Beach Scene Premium Poster
Long Beach Scene Premium Poster 12 in. x 16 in.
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Canada: Cruise the Great Lakes Canvas Print

Cruise the Great Lakes Stretched Canvas Print
Cruise the Great Lakes Stretched Canvas Print 7 in. x 11 in.
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Canadians are naturally friendly and hospitable. They are proud of their lovely scenery and delight in showing it off to visitors. You will always be welcome.

Service charge is not normally included in restaurant or hotel bills and tipping is therefore essential. In restaurants, 10 - 15 %, porters, for bag, taxi drivers, 10 - 20 %, hairdressers, 15 %, hotel porters, chambermaid, cloakroom attendant.

Hairdressing: First class hotels have salons.

Clubs: Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis.

Health: Excellent facilities available. Pharmaceuticals tend to be expensive.

Newspapers: In Quebec Province the Montreal Star and Gazette are the main English language publications. What's On in Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec are useful entertainment guides.

Postage: Stamps from post offices and from stmp machines. Mailboxes are free standing, painted red with one white and two blue stripes.

Acapulco, Mexico: Woman and Water Premium Poster

Acapulco, Mexico: Woman and Water Premium Poster
Acapulco, Mexico: Woman and Water Premium Poster 8 in. x 12 in.
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The range is from air-conditioned skyscrapers to inns nd haciendas, and plenty of motels. You pay more in Acapulco nd other resorts during the high season (March - November), and less in the country. Resorts hotels will often give a 30 per cent discount in the off season. Budget travelers should look for pensions and casas de huespedes, where you can arrange bed and breakfast by the month. For help and information go to the TOurism Department, Avenida Juarez 94, Mexico City. Reserve well in advance at resorts in the high season, everywhere at Christmas and Easter.

Alameda Avenida Juarez 50
Aristos Paseo de la Reforma 276
Camino Real Mariano Escobedo 700
Continental Hilton Paseo de la Reforma 166
El Presidente Hamburgo 134
Fiesta Palace Paseo de la Reforma 80
Maria Isabel-Sheriton Pasea de la Reforma 325
Tecpan Towers 630 Pasea de la Roferma Norte
Alffer Revillagigedo 18
Del Prado Avenue Juarez 70
Reforma Paseo de la Reforma y Paris
De Carlo Plaza de la Republica 35
Metropol Luis Moya 39
Rtiz Avenida Madero 30

Air France Eiffel Tower Art Print

Air France, Eiffel Tower, c.1952 Art Print
Air France, Eiffel Tower, c.1952 Art Print Bernard Villemot 9 in. x 12 in.
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