The Shaping of Western Civilization

Author: Michael Burger
Time period: 10000 BC-Present


About the book

Michael Burger’s goal in this inexpensive overview is to provide a brief, historical narrative of Western civilization. Not only does its length and price separate this text from the competition, but its no-frills, uncluttered format and well-written, one-authored approach make it a valuable asset for every history student.

The Shaping of Western Civilization begins with the ancient Near East and ends with globalization. Unlike other textbooks that pile on dates and facts, Shaping is a more coherent and interpretive presentation. Burger’s skills as writer and synthesizer will enable students to obtain the background required to ask meaningful questions of primary sources.

About the Author

Michael Burger is an historian of medieval Europe and the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Auburn University at Montgomery. He is the author of Bishops, Clerks, and Diocesan Governance in Thirteenth-Century England: Reward and Punishment (Cambridge University Press) and the editor of the two-volume reader Sources for the History of Western Civilization (University of Toronto Press).

Study Questions

Hundreds of study questions are available here to test students’ knowledge of the text. They are organized by chapter, with specific questions on the maps, figures, and terms in the text, as well as short and long answer questions. They will be an invaluable resource for students reviewing for their exams or simply testing their knowledge as they work through the text.

  • Chapter 6
    Reveal Answer

      Short-Answer Questions
    • 1. What doctrinal issues led Luther to break from the Catholic Church?
      Reveal Answer

      Luther challenged the Catholic Church on several points of doctrine. First, he argued that one was saved by faith alone and that good works played no role in salvation. For Luther, the only source of spiritual authority was the Bible, which he believed should be read literally. Luther also rejected the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. He believed that during communion the bread and wine were turned into flesh and blood by the individual’s faith, not the authority of the priest. He believed in the “Real Presence” during communion; that is, that Christ’s real flesh and blood was present. Finally, Luther believed in the “priesthood of all believers,” the idea that the clergy had no special position because everyone faced God alone.
    • 2. How can certain aspects of Protestant belief be seen as a product of the High and Late Middle Ages?
      Reveal Answer

      Protestant beliefs echoed some of the developments of the High and Late Middle Ages. Protestants stressed the faith of the individual believer just as several religious movements of the High Middle Ages had emphasized the individual’s interior response to religion. In the Late Middle Ages, movements such as nominalism and humanism challenged reliance on reason; Luther rejected reason as a way to explain what happened to the bread and wine during communion. The doctrine of predestination represented a God similar to the God of the nominalists: not a God of reason, but a God of will who could do anything He wanted. Protestant rejection of the clergy was part of a long tradition of criticism of immoral and corrupt clergy. The Protestant emphasis on reading the Bible for oneself was little different from the Christian humanist desire to read and study scripture. Both Protestants and humanists felt a sense of historical distance between themselves and the past.
    • 3. How did the Catholic Church respond to the Protestant Reformation?
      Reveal Answer

      The Catholic Church did not alter its doctrine in the face of Protestant criticism. At the Council of Trent, the Church adopted transubstantiation as official church doctrine. Baroque art emerged as a way to express Catholicism’s appeal to the senses. While the Catholic Church re-affirmed the special status of the clergy, it did attempt to reform corrupt clergy by, for example, enforcing celibacy. The Church established schools to train the clergy and made efforts to ensure that people understood Catholic doctrine. Catholic clergy copied Protestant ministers by preaching to the congregation and put greater emphasis on the memorization of catechisms, or short summaries of doctrine. There were renewed efforts to root out heresy, and the Inquisition courts of the Middle Ages were revived. There were also efforts to re-convert Protestants. The Jesuits were established for this purpose.
    • 4. What effects did the Protestant Reformation have on women?
      Reveal Answer

      As a result of Protestant emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers” and the reading of the Bible for oneself, women had greater spiritual equality. In the early years of the Reformation, women had greater freedom to preach. While in family life the husband was still expected to rule his wife and children, for Protestant women their priest was no longer available as an alternative source of authority. Women did lose the possibility of the monastic life and a choice of a life as something other than a wife and mother. Protestant communities also made prostitution illegal.
    • 5. Why did his “Ninety-five Theses” not have the effects that Luther expected? What happened instead?
      Reveal Answer

      Luther taught that everyone should read the Bible for themselves, but he assumed that everyone would draw the same conclusions from it that he did. He was surprised to realize that instead there were many different interpretations of the Bible that led to the splintering of the Protestant movement.
    • 6. Were the series of wars fought in France in the second half of the sixteenth century purely religious in origin?
      Reveal Answer

      The Guise family was Catholic while the Bourbons were Protestant. Civil war between Guise and Bourbon was a religious conflict, but it was also a conflict between the French king and powerful nobility. Catherine de Medici (the mother of three French kings) wanted to end fighting between Protestants and Catholics because she believed that such warfare threatened the monarchy’s ability to control the country and its nobles.
    • 7. Why did Henry VIII join the Protestant cause?
      Reveal Answer

      Henry VIII badly wanted a legitimate son to succeed him when he died, but he and his wife, Catherine of Aragon, had only one living child: a daughter. Because of political considerations, the pope would not grant Henry an annulment. By becoming Protestant and breaking with the papacy, Henry could become “Supreme Head” of the English Church and arrange for his own annulment.
    • 8. How did Philip II’s religious scruples lead him into international conflict?
      Reveal Answer

      Philip II saw himself as the defender of Christendom and this led him into several conflicts, not all of them successful. He did defend Europe from the Ottoman Turks. But he unsuccessfully sent the Armada against Elizabeth I  in an effort to bring Catholicism back to England. In an effort to squash Protestantism in the Low Countries, he sent in his troops. This move, however, backfired, leading to a revolt that ultimately resulted in the northern part of the Low Counties becoming the independent, and Protestant, Netherlands.
    • 9. How did the Protestant Reformation strengthen royal authority?
      Reveal Answer

      In Protestant countries, rulers came to exercise greater leadership over church affairs. Some Protestant rulers, such as Henry VIII, actually came to head the national church. In Catholic counties, rulers were in a better position to get concessions from the pope because they were needed to combat Protestantism. For example, in 1523 the Spanish king was granted the right to appoint all bishops in his kingdom.
    • 10. How did motives of the participants in the Thirty Years’ War change over time?
      Reveal Answer

      The Thirty Years' War began as a religious war between the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand, and the Protestant nobles of Bohemia. Yet, Catholic France eventually sided with the Protestants because of its fear of Habsburg power. When Ferdinand issued the Edict of Restitution in 1629 without consulting the Empire’s representative, the Diet, many princes of the Empire, including Catholic princes, saw this as a threatening extension of imperial power. Catholic princes like Maximilian, duke of Bavaria, resisted the Edict, and Maximilian eventually sided with France against Ferdinand. Sweden and France (aided by the duke of Bavaria) both sided with the Protestants. What had begun as a war over religion ended as a war over how much power the Holy Roman Emperor would exercise.
  • Chapter 10
    Reveal Answer

      Defining Terms
    • 1. Define “Triple Alliance.”
      Reveal Answer

      The Triple Alliance, also known as the “Central Powers,” consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. When war came, however, Italy abandoned its allies.
    • 2. Define “Archduke Franz Ferdinand.”
      Reveal Answer

      Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalists touched off the Great War.
    • 3. Define “John Maynard Keynes.”
      Reveal Answer

      Keynes was an economist of the 1930s who encouraged governments to respond to economic downturns by spending more, not less. Government spending was needed to boost demand, and in turn employment, even if governments had to borrow to do so. Keynesian economics has been very influential in the West.
    • 4. Define “totalitarianism.”
      Reveal Answer

      Totalitarianism means that the government controls all aspects of life, even private life.
    • 5. Define “nomenklatura.”
      Reveal Answer

      The nomenklatura were the government bureaucrats of the Russian Communist Party who managed the centrally planned economy.
    • 6. Define “fascism.”
      Reveal Answer

      Fascism was a totalitarian ideology that gave power to a dictator. Fascists were nationalists who claimed that the community of the nation subsumed all other communities, including that of the workers. Unlike communism, fascism accepted private property and private businesses, while always claiming the right to direct the economy as necessary.
    • 7. Define “Cold War.”
      Reveal Answer

      The Cold War was the name given to the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II. This conflict never broke out into open war between the two sides, but they fought several proxy wars in third world countries.
    • 8. Define “multiculturalism.”
      Reveal Answer

      Multiculturalism is the idea that cultures have value just by existing, that no culture is superior to any other, and that a society is better off having many cultures.
    • 9. Define “Mau Mau rebellion.”
      Reveal Answer

      The Mau Mau rebellion was a revolt by the Kikuyu in the British colony of Kenya. As a result of this rebellion, the British government decided it could no longer hold on to its African colonies.
    • 10. Define “Islamism.”
      Reveal Answer

      Islamism is a radical form of Islam that seeks to re-create the medieval Islamic state, governed by Sharia law, but without toleration of Jews and Christians.
      Short-Answer Questions
    • 1. Why was the “Great War” so much deadlier than previous wars?
      Reveal Answer

      One of the reasons that the Great War was so much deadlier than previous wars was the degree of control governments exercised by the early twentieth century. Centralized governments commanded huge resources in terms of men, industry, and trade. Much of the nation’s energy could thus be focused on the war effort. In addition, advances in military technology—heavy artillery, accurate rifles, and machines guns—made warfare deadlier than ever before. And because soldiers had no means of moving quickly over the battlefield, the war bogged down into trench warfare, which often consisted of troops being sent out of the trenches—“over the top”—to be mowed down by machine gun fire.
    • 2. How did a European war starting in 1914 become a global war?
      Reveal Answer

      European empires caused a European war to become a world war. Japan went into the war against Germany in the hopes of grabbing Germany’s colonies in Asia. Troops from colonies in Asia and Africa fought in the trenches in France. Canada and Australia sent troops to fight for Britain. In addition, the war spread to the Middle East and North Africa when the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and Austria. America entered the war as a result of the sinking of American ships by the Germans.
    • 3. What was the cause of the Great Depression?
      Reveal Answer

      The Great Depression was triggered by the stock market crash of 1929, when agriculture was already weak. More and more Americans began investing money in stocks as the stock market continued to shoot up. More and more were borrowing money to buy these stocks. When the bubble burst and the stock market fell, stocks lost so much value that banks lost the money they had loaned to investors to buy the stocks. Many banks failed; many people lost their life savings. This crisis greatly shook confidence in growth and investment. Without investment, businesses could not operate, people lost their jobs, and the economy collapsed.
    • 4. What were the political consequences of the Great Depression?
      Reveal Answer

      In Latin America, the Great Depression led to unstable governments and power struggles between oligarchies, dictators, and the army. In Europe and North America, the Great Depression led to the rise of the Left and much greater government intervention in the economy. In France, the socialists came to power. In the US, as part of the “New Deal,” the government created make-work projects to fight unemployment and paid farmers not to grow certain crops in order to raise agricultural prices. The US government also began to provide payments to the elderly and unemployed. Canada introduced unemployment insurance. Governments also began to impose tariffs on foreign goods in order to protect them from foreign competition.
    • 5. How did a revolt against the Tsar lead to a communist revolution?
      Reveal Answer

      As a result of discontent with war and industrial conditions, the Tsar’s control of Russia had slipped away by 1917. Although a Provisional Government was declared after the Tsar abdicated, it was unable to fully control the country. Its determination to stay in the war undermined its support from much of the populace. In much of Russia, “soviets,” or workers’ councils, were becoming more and more powerful. Vladimir Lenin’s faction, the Bolsheviks, eventually took over the Petrograd Soviet. In November 1917, Lenin took control of the Provisional government, putting the Bolsheviks, or extreme communists, in control of Russia.
    • 6. How did communism in Russia depart from strict Marxist ideology?
      Reveal Answer

      The cult of personality—Lenin’s and Stalin’s—was one way that Russian communism departed from strict Marxist ideology, which emphasized class conflict, not individuals. But there were others. At the beginning of the Revolution, Russia had an agrarian economy. Marx had assumed that workers’ revolutions would take place in industrialized countries. To build a socialist country in Russia meant transforming it from a country of peasants to one of industrial workers. So Stalin had to industrialize Russia so that it could meet Marx’s definition of a society of workers. Moreover, Marx had argued that with socialism, the state would wither away. In Communist Russia, the state became all-powerful. Communist Russia also had a more traditional relationship between the sexes than Marx had imagined. While women initially gained greater equality under communism, in the long run women were still assumed to be responsible for the home. Finally, while Marx had rejected nationalism in favor of a community of workers, and had seen socialist revolution as a world-wide event, Stalin was willing to settle for “socialism in one country,” and to concentrate on industrializing Russia rather than fostering world revolution. Stalin was quite willing to appeal to Russian nationalism in the face of the German invasion.
    • 7. How did the Western powers attempt to appease Hitler in hopes of avoiding another war?
      Reveal Answer

      France and Britain made numerous territorial concessions to Hitler in hopes that he would be satisfied and make no further demands. In 1936, Hitler moved German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. Since this area had traditionally been part of Germany, Britain found it easy to justify, despite French dismay at the loss of this buffer zone. In 1938, Germany annexed Austria, which was ethnically German. In 1938, Britain and France allowed Germany to take the Sudetenland (an ethnically German province) from Czechoslovakia, but in March, 1939, Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia as well. It was only when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, that Britain and France finally went to war.
    • 8. How did the “pax Americana” and “pax communista” define the world after World War II?
      Reveal Answer

      After the Second World War, two superpowers dominated the globe: the United States and the Soviet Union. Each superpower was able to enforce peace among the nations that fell within its sphere of influence. The United States led NATO, which included Britain, France, and West Germany, and SEATO, which included Australia and Thailand. The US’s military dominance was such that no Western European nation could consider going to war without its support. There was no danger, for example, of another war between Britain and Germany. The US also wielded considerable influence over the foreign policies of their allies, for instance, forcing Britain and France to withdraw their troops from Suez in 1956. The Soviet Union did much the same in Eastern Europe. But the Soviet Union imposed far greater control on the internal politics of its allies, invading Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 when unhappy with internal developments.
    • 9. How did the feminist movement show the influence both of the Enlightenment and of postmodernism?
      Reveal Answer

      The “first wave” of American feminism was based on Enlightenment notions of equality rooted in a common human nature. Nineteenth-century feminists, for example, demanded the right to vote alongside men. A new wave of feminism that began in the 1960s also fought for equality—in access to education, employment, etc. But in the 1970s, a “radical feminism” emerged, a feminism that was not based on the idea of a common humanity. Radical feminism was influenced by postmodernism and its emphasis on culture and the rejection of universal values. This version of feminism was a separatist movement that rejected all institutions that were a product of male dominance. These feminists aimed to control culture in order to exercise their own autonomy. They might, for example, redefine the word “bitch” so that it became not a word to demean women, but a way of describing themselves. Radical feminists argued that women had a culture quite distinct from masculine culture, one that should be celebrated.
    • 10. How did the Western Empires produce some of the forces that destroyed them?
      Reveal Answer

      The West produced Western-educated Africans and Asians who used Western ideas such as nationalism and Marxism to resist Western imperialism. Ho Chi Minh was born in Vietnam but became very westernized. While living in France, he became both a nationalist and a communist, and then returned to Vietnam to fight against the Western powers. Jomo Kenyatta is another example of someone who employed Western ideas in the service of liberation from Western powers. Kenyatta studied in Britain before returning to Africa to lead the Kenyan independence movement. While living in the West, he was influenced by both nationalism and Marxism.
    • 11. How did neoliberalism triumph in the 1980s and 1990s?
      Reveal Answer

      Neoliberals (sometimes called “conservatives”) believed that the government should interfere with the economy as little as possible. In the 1980s and 1990s more and more countries in the West adopted market-friendly policies. When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Britain in 1979, she de-nationalized industry and reduced taxes and regulation. President Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, promised to reduce taxes and curtail the welfare state in the US. In Canada, Brian Mulroney cut spending on social programs. In the mid-nineties, Fernando Henrique Cardosa of Brazil promised to end policies protecting Brazilian industries from foreign competition. At the same time, President Bill Clinton reformed welfare policies in the US. In Britain, the “New Labour” Party adopted market-orientated policies and ceased calling itself “socialist.” Free trade agreements were passed in South America, North America, and Europe. Even the Soviet Union allowed more free-market activity when it adopted perestroika (“restructuring”).
      Regarding Maps
    • 1. Consider Map 10.1. How did nationalism and the system of alliances contribute to the outbreak of the Great War?
      Reveal Answer

      Serbian nationalists longed for a greater Serbia that included all the Serbs of the Balkans. Two partly Serbian provinces, however—Bosnia and Herzegovina—were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Serbian nationalists assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Austro-Hungarian government demanded that Serbia assist in apprehending the assassins. The Austrians hoped for an excuse to go to war with Serbia. Germany promised to support Austria-Hungary against Russia as well as Serbia. Russia was allied with France and Britain. France wanted to recover the province of Alsace-Lorraine from Germany, while Britain feared a powerful Germany. As a result, the conflict between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire led to a war involving all of the great powers of Europe.
    • 2. Consider Map 10.2. How did liberal democracy fare in Italy and Germany after the Great War?
      Reveal Answer

      After World War I, both Italy and Germany were taken over by fascist dictators who offered their countrymen unity, not democracy. In Italy, Benito Mussolini and his Black Shirts emerged from disorder after the war to offer Italy stability and a sense of solidarity. Fascists such as Mussolini argued that liberal democracy, like socialism, encouraged conflict. Fascism, however, offered unity. When Mussolini came to power in 1922, he was determined to end the conflict inherent in liberal democracy. All other political parties were banned; dissidents were imprisoned. Mussolini established a “corporative state” that brought together workers and owners under the power of the state to regulate the economy. In Germany, the Weimar Republic established at the end of the war was an unpopular and weak government. Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party—the National Socialist German Workers' Party—came to power promising national unity. The Nazis accomplished this in several ways. They emphasized that Germans, or “Aryans,” were fundamentally different from—and superior to—Jews and other “inferior” groups. A cult of personality surrounding Hitler, like that surrounding Mussolini, was another way of fostering German unity: everyone was personally loyal to the same leader. The Nazis emphasized that the Germans were one volk, or people, despite class differences. At the same time, the Nazi party controlled all aspects of life.
    • 3. Consider Map 10.3. What proxy wars did the United States and the Soviet Union fight during the Cold War?
      Reveal Answer

      Because of the threat of nuclear annihilation, the United States and the Soviet Union did not fight an outright war during the so-called “Cold War.” They did, however, fight several proxy wars, supporting opposite sides in a conflict. The Korean War was one such proxy war. Korea had been divided at the 38th parallel since the end of World War II. The Soviet Union backed a communist government set up in north Korea, while the US backed a nationalist government in the south. In 1950, the communist north attacked the south in an effort to unite the country. The US sent in troops to protect the south. Thus, while the US and Soviet Union were never in direct conflict, they supported different sides in the war. Much the same happened in Vietnam. After the French left Indochina in 1954, the Soviet Union supported a communist government in the north while the US supported an anti-communist regime in the south. North Vietnam supported communist insurrection in the south, and, in 1964, invaded the south. In support of South Vietnam, US troops fought the communists, who eventually succeeded in uniting the country in 1975. In the Middle East, the US supported Israel against Arab states such as Egypt who were supported by the Soviets. In Latin America, the US supported opponents of the Soviet-backed Sandinistas, both the Samoza government and, later, the contras. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the US sent money and guns to the Mujahedin resisting the Soviets.
    • 4. Consider Map 10. 4. How did nationalism re-surface in the former communist countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
      Reveal Answer

      When the Soviet Union and the “pax communista” dissolved, groups who had been forced to live in peace by the communists resumed their nationalistic conflicts. Ethnic Armenians who wanted independence from Azerbaijan led to war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In the former Yugoslavia, Serbs murdered thousands of Muslims and ethnic Albanians in what has become known as “ethnic cleansing.” In turn, Albanians murdered large numbers of Serbs in Kosovo.

Maps