A Near Eastern archaeologist and author who has spent over twenty-five years carrying out excavations, architectural studies and monumental restoration throughout the Middle East and adjacent regions, having lived, worked and travelled in most countries between the Mediterranean and China. He is currently director of Eastern Approaches, a special-interest cultural tours company specialising in the East. Author of many books and articles on the history and archaeology of the region, his book, Rome in the East: the Transformation of an Empire, was winner of the James Henry Breasted History Prize and was Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 2000. He is also the author of the much acclaimed Syria: A Historical and Architectural Guide.
Born in Australia, Warwick Ball now lives in Scotland.
Four volumes by Warwick Ball
Every culture looks at history in relation to itself, and so it is not surprising that since the nineteenth century our view of world history has been Eurocentric. Perhaps this bias has been overplayed because so many of the world's more powerful nations are rooted in European culture and so the concept of the 'West' and being 'Western' has become almost stereotypical and a crude packaging of a whole complex set of cultures.
Whether or not such a view is correct, this questions whether the 'West' is truly 'Western'. Or, to put it another way, being 'Western' also incorporates a huge amount that is 'Eastern'. Hence, regardless of whether the Eurocentric view is correct or not (and in its own terms it can be correct), the traditional view of the European worldwide spread must be balanced by two considerations. First, by the spread of peoples from the East into Europe. And second, that so much of the civilisation we consider to be 'European' is equally Asiatic. In describing the ensuing contact and assessing the affect, much of what it means to be 'European' is challenged. Ultimately, 'eastern' and 'western' civilisations are neither exclusive nor confrontational. In short, it poses the question, what is 'Europe'?
To deny that Arabs and Turks - or Phoenicians, Scythians, Persians, Jews, Huns, and Mongols - are a part of European as well as Asiatic civilisation is not only to fly in the face of evidence, it is to deny some of the greatest achievements of our civilisation: they are integral parts to be acknowledged as much as our Greek, Roman, Norman or Slavic parts. Phoenicians, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, all form a part of European history, a part that is both European and Asiatic, a part that defines and makes Europe what it is. Arab and Turkish invasions were no more 'attacks on Europe' than Roman or Norman invasions were.
In this series I do not wish to match East against West nor to demonstrate that 'everything came out of the East.' I wish simply to explore the affect of those cultures from beyond the conventional boundaries of Europe that, to a greater or lesser extent, expanded westwards - the counterpart of the 'European expansion'. Since the earliest times, the history of Europe has been inextricably bound up with peoples and cultures from the East. It is an extraordinarily rich and complex relationship. Not only was Europe born and defined out of this relationship, but at every stage in its history it was intimately affected by the lands to the east. This is the story of that relationship: it is the story of Europe itself.
"This is a timely and interesting work that deserves to reach a wide readership." 5 Stars. David Santiuste (review originally published in History Times, Feb. 2010)