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The Story of Civilization by CEM Joad

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THE STORY OF 

CIVILIZATION 

BY 

C. E. M. JOAD 

THE HOW-&-WHY SERIES 

EDITED BY GERALD BULLBTT 

A. & C. BLACK, LTD 4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.i 

 

London 

A. & C. BLACK, LTD 

Melbourne 

THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

Bombay Calcutta Madras 

MACMILLAN AMD COMPANY LTD 

PRINTED IN ORRAT BRITAIN ■TL»I. CLARr, LTD., IDINBUICH 

 

CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTION-I. A Talk 7 

II. A Talk about the Talk 14 

CHAP. 

I. THE GREAT RELIGIOUS TEACHERS 20 

II. GREECE AND THE MAKING OF BEAUTIFUL THINGS 30 

III. FINDING THINGS OUT 47 

IV. How SCIENCE HAS CHANGED OUR LIVES 57 

V. THE SPREADING OF KNOWLEDGE 68 

VI. THE SHARING OF MONEY 76 

VII. OUR OWN CIVILIZATION 83 

 

INTRODUCTION 

I. A TALK 

Myself. I am trying to write a book on Civilization, and I want to find out what being civilized is. What do you think? 

Lucy. Oh, I suppose, wearing proper clothes, riding about in buses and cars, having money to buy things and shops to buy them in. 

Myself. Yes, but babies wear proper clothes, and Mrs. X1 rides in buses, and buys things in shops. Would you say that babies and Mrs. X were civilized? 

Lucy. Oh no! I don't think they are a bit. But, you see, they could be if they liked. There are so many civilized things about now, that anybody can be civilized if he tries. 

Myself. What sort of things do you mean? 

Lucy. Machines, and trains, and wireless, and telephones, and cinemas. 

Myself. Well, I dare say they have something to do how with civilization; but I don't think that just having them and using them makes you civilized. After all, being civilized ought to be some credit to you, something you can be proud of, and there is 

1 Mrs. X is the housekeeper. Lucy thinks her rather savage. 

7 1 

 

8 THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION 

nothing to be proud of about getting into a train. Let us try and think of some civilized people, and see if that helps us. Tell me anybody you can think of. 

Lucy. Shakespeare. 

Myself. Why? 

Lucy. Because he was a great man and wrote plays that people are proud of. 

Myself. Now I think we may be getting warmer. But tell me, do you like Shakespeare's plays? 

Lucy. Not much. 

Myself. Then why do you say they are great? 

Lucy. Because, I suppose, I shall like them some day. Anyway, grown-up people make a great fuss about them. 

Myself. Yes, and there are other things such as pictures and music that you don't like much yet, but grown-ups make a fuss about. If Shakespeare's plays are a sign of civilization, so are Raphael's pictures and Beethoven's music. 

Lucy. I suppose so, although I don't know much about them. 

Myself. Then to produce beautiful things such as plays, pictures and music is being civilized, people like Shakespeare and Raphael and Beet¬hoven are the sort of people who count. 

Lucy. But all sorts of people I have read about, like the Caliphs and Princes in the Arabian Nights, had splendid things, palaces and silks and satins, and jewels, scents and gorgeous clothes, and wonderful carpets, and lovely things to eat and drink, and slaves to wait on them. Weren't they civilized? 

 

INTRODUCTION 9 

Myself. I am not sure. You see, they just had what they liked and did what they wanted to. 

Lucy. Well, why shouldn't they? 

Myself. Think of something nice, anything you like . . . 

Lucy. Treacle toffees. 

Myself. Well, suppose you were very rich, had as much money as you could possibly want, and bought thousands and thousands of treacle toffees. Wouldn't you get sick of them? 

Lucy. I suppose so. 

Myself. And similarly with catapults. 

Lucy. What do you mean? 

Myself. Well, John likes catapults more than anything else. But suppose he was very rich indeed, and, because he liked catapults best, spent his money on buying catapults, so that he had hundreds of them. He wouldn't be much better off than he was with one or two, would he? 

Lucy. You mean he could not let off more than one or two at once. 

Myself. Yes. And he would very soon get tired of catapults altogether. 

Lucy. I expect he would; but what has that got to do with it? 

Myself. Why, this: that the things you read about in the Arabian Nights, the splendid palaces and gorgeous clothes and hundreds of slaves, and all that sort of thing, seem to me to be just grown-up substitutes for treacle toffees and catapults. People get born the sons of kings, and they grow up to inherit power and riches, and then they say to themselves, "Now, what do I like best?" And 

 

10 THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION 

having found out what it was, they have spent their money in getting as much or as many of what they liked best as they could.

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