In concentrated form -- provocatively presented -- the story of civilization is given new perspective. For the scholar, this will inevitably seem too slick a job; for the general reader whose historical background is sketchy, it provides a quick refresher, tying the panorama of history into a cohesive pattern. In so short a book, one might be considered captious to quarrel with the lack of color and drama and human interest, which might have provided bait for the unwary disinclined to read a text as coldly expository and analytical as this. But the end result should lead readers to further exploration- or failing that, give a sound groundwork of understanding of all of the contributions of successive areas, successive ages, successive peoples, to our modern civilization; what were the contributing factors (all too evident again today) that set the stage for the fall of powerful peoples. Many accepted viewpoints are upset:- the ancient Near East proves to have been the cradle of civilization in many ways, providing a foundation on which Europe built; the classical cultures overlapped and were relatively short spaced; the Middle Ages were neither so ""Dark"" nor so exact in their boundaries as often assumed -- the early Middle Ages presented the shape of things to come, and feudalism made its great contribution to democracy, while the church, in its impact on the so-called Barbarians, provided a merger of Roman, Jewish and Oriental values, the Renaissance and Reformation led straight into modern times. And today we stand in dire peril of doing a repeat performance on earlier civilizations.