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The Western world as derived from Samuel P. Huntington's 1996 Clash of Civilizations: [1] in light blue are Latin America and the Orthodox world, which are either a part of the West or distinct civilizations intimately related to the West. [2] [3]

The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to various nations and states in the regions of Australasia, [a] Western Europe, [b] and Northern America; with some debate as to whether those in Eastern Europe and Latin America [c] also constitute the West. [5] [6] [7] The Western world likewise is called the Occident (from Latin occidens 'setting down, sunset, west') in contrast to the Eastern world known as the Orient (from Latin oriens 'origin, sunrise, east'). The West is considered an evolving concept; made up of cultural, political, and economic synergy among diverse groups of people, and not a rigid region with fixed borders and members. [8] Definitions of "Western world" vary according to context and perspectives. [9]

Modern-day Western world essentially encompasses the nations and states where civilization or culture is considered Western [10] [11] [12]—the roots of which some historians have traced to the Greco-Roman world and Christianity. [13] [14] In the Global North–South schism, the West is often correlated with Global North. [15] [16] A historic idea of Europe as the geographic West emerged in the fifth century BCE Greece. [17] [18] [19] A geographical concept of the West started to take shape in the 4th century CE when Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, divided the Roman Empire between the Greek East and Latin West. The East Roman Empire, later called the Byzantine Empire, continued for a millennium, while the West Roman Empire lasted for only about a century and a half. The Byzantine Empire's longevity and success caused envy among many people in Western Europe. Additionally, significant theological and ecclesiastical differences led Western Europeans to consider the Christians in the Byzantine Empire as heretics. [9] In 1054 CE, when the church in Rome excommunicated the patriarch of Byzantium, the politico-religious division between the Western church and Eastern church culminated in the Great Schism or the East–West Schism. [9] [20] Even though friendly relations continued between the two parts of the Christendom for some time, the crusades made the schism definitive with hostility. [21] The West during these crusades tried to capture trade routes to the East and failed, it instead discovered the Americas. [22] In the aftermath of European colonization of these newly discovered lands, an idea of the Western world, as an inheritor of Latin Christendom emerged. [23]

The English word "West" initially referred solely to the cardinal direction. By the Middle Ages, Europeans began to use it to describe Europe. Since the eighteenth century, following European exploration, the word was used to indicate the regions of the world with European settlements. [24] [25] [26] In contemporary times, countries that are considered to constitute the West vary according to perspective rather than their geographical location. Countries like Australia and New Zealand, located in the Eastern Hemisphere are included in modern definitions of the Western world, [27] as these regions and others like them have been significantly influenced by the British—derived from colonization, and immigration of Europeans—factors that grounded such countries to the West. [28] Despite being located in the Far East, a country like Japan, in some contexts, is considered a part of the West as it aligns with the ideals of Western-style democracy; while a country like Cuba, located in the Western Hemisphere, is argued as not being a part of the West as it aligns with the ideals of communism. [29] Depending on the context and the historical period in question, Russia was sometimes seen as a part of the West, and at other times juxtaposed with it. [30] [31] [32] Running parallel to the rise of the United States as a great power and the development of communication–transportation technologies "shrinking" the distance between both the Atlantic Ocean shores, the aforementioned country (United States) became more prominently featured in the conceptualizations of the West. [30]

Between the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, prominent countries in the West such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand have been once envisioned as ethnocracies for whites. [33] [34] [35] Racism is cited as a contributing factor to Westerners' colonization of the New World, which today constitutes much of the "geographical" Western world. [36] [37] Starting from the late 1960s, certain parts of the Western World have become notable for their diversity due to immigration. [38] [39] The idea of "the West" over the course of time has evolved from a directional concept to a socio-political concept that had been temporalized and rendered as a concept of the future bestowed with notions of progress and modernity. [30]


The origins of Western civilization can be traced back to the ancient Mediterranean world. Ancient Greece [d] and Ancient Rome [e] are generally considered to be the birthplaces of Western civilization—Greece having heavily influenced Rome—the former due to its impact on philosophy, democracy, science, aesthetics, as well as building designs and proportions and architecture; the latter due to its influence on art, law, warfare, governance, republicanism, engineering and religion. Western Civilization is also closely associated with Christianity, [58] the dominant religion in the West, with roots in Greco- Roman and Jewish thought. Christian ethics, drawing from the ethical and moral principles of its historical roots in Judaism, has played a pivotal role in shaping the foundational framework of Western societies. [59] [60] [61] Earlier civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, had also significantly influenced Western civilization through their advancements in writing, law codes, and societal structures. [58] The convergence of Greek-Roman and Judeo-Christian influences in shaping Western civilization has led certain scholars to characterize it as emerging from the legacies of Athens and Jerusalem, [62] [63] [64] or Athens, Jerusalem and Rome. [65]

In ancient Greece and Rome, individuals identified primarily as subjects of states, city-states, or empires, rather than as members of Western civilization. The distinct identification of Western civilization began to crystallize with the rise of Christianity during the Late Roman Empire. In this period, peoples in Europe started to perceive themselves as part of a unique civilization, differentiating from others like Islam, giving rise to the concept of Western civilization. By the 15th century, Renaissance intellectuals solidified this concept, associating Western civilization not only with Christianity but also with the intellectual and political achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans. [58]

Historians, such as Carroll Quigley in "The Evolution of Civilizations", [66] contend that Western civilization was born around AD 500, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, leaving a vacuum for new ideas to flourish that were impossible in Classical societies. In either view, between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, the West (or those regions that would later become the heartland of the culturally "western sphere") experienced a period of decline, and then readaptation, reorientation and considerable renewed material, technological and political development. [67] Classical culture of the ancient Western world was partly preserved during this period due to the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire and the introduction of the Catholic Church; it was also greatly expanded by the Arab importation [68] [69] of both the Ancient Greco-Roman and new technology through the Arabs from India and China to Europe. [70] [71]

Gold and garnet cloisonné (and mud), military fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard before cleaning

Since the Renaissance, the West evolved beyond the influence of the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Islamic world, due to the successful Second Agricultural, Commercial, [72] Scientific, [73] and Industrial [74] revolutions (propellers of modern banking concepts). The West rose further with the 18th century's Age of Enlightenment and through the Age of Exploration's expansion of peoples of Western and Central European empires, particularly the globe-spanning colonial empires of 18th and 19th centuries. [75] Numerous times, this expansion was accompanied by Catholic missionaries, who attempted to proselytize Christianity.

US Supreme Court (1932–1935) building, built in neoclassical style, an architectural style of the Western world

In the modern era, Western culture has undergone further transformation through the Renaissance, Ages of Discovery and Enlightenment, and the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions. [76] [77] The widespread influence of Western culture extended globally through imperialism, colonialism, and Christianization by Western powers from the 15th to 20th centuries. This influence persists through the exportation of mass culture, a phenomenon often referred to as Westernization. [78]

There was debate among some in the 1960s as to whether Latin America as a whole is in a category of its own. [79]


Plato, arguably the most influential figure in early Western philosophy, has influenced virtually all of subsequent Western and Middle Eastern philosophy and theology

Western culture, also known as Western civilization, European civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, includes the diverse heritages of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies of the Western world. The core of Western civilization, broadly defined, is formed by the combined foundations of Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity. [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] While Western culture is a broad concept, and does not relate to a region with fixed members or geographical confines, it generally relates to the cultures of countries with historical ties to a European country or a number of European countries, or to the variety of cultures within Europe itself. However, countries toward the east of Europe are often excluded from definitions of the Western world.

Western culture is characterized by a host of artistic, philosophic, literary and legal themes and traditions. Christianity, primarily the Catholic Church, [89] [90] [91] and later Protestantism [92] [93] [94] [95] has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization since at least the 4th century, [96] [97] [98] [99] [100] as did Judaism. [101] [102] [103] [104] A cornerstone of Western thought, beginning in ancient Greece and continuing through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, is the idea of rationalism in various spheres of life developed by Hellenistic philosophy, scholasticism and humanism. Empiricism later gave rise to the scientific method, the scientific revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment.

While traditionally shunned as a mainspring of Western civilization in favour of early Aegean cultures, the Phoenician city-states stimulated and fostered Western civilization. [105] The expansion of Greek culture into the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean led to a synthesis between Greek and Near-Eastern cultures, [106] and major advances in literature, engineering, and science, and provided the culture for the expansion of early Christianity and the Greek New Testament. [107] [108] [109] This period overlapped with and was followed by Rome, which made key contributions in law, government, engineering and political organization. [110]

Western culture continued to develop with the Christianization of European society during the Middle Ages, the reforms triggered by the medieval renaissances, the influence of the Islamic world via Al-Andalus and Sicily (including the transfer of technology from the East, and Latin translations of Arabic texts on science and philosophy by Greek and Hellenic-influenced Islamic philosophers), [111] [112] [113] and the Italian Renaissance as Greek scholars fleeing after the fall of Constantinople brought classical traditions and philosophy. [114] This major change for non-Western countries and their people saw a development in modernization in those countries. [115] Medieval Christianity is credited with creating the modern university, [116] [117] the modern hospital system, [118] scientific economics, [119] [120] and natural law (which would later influence the creation of international law). [121] European culture developed with a complex range of philosophy, medieval scholasticism, mysticism and Christian and secular humanism. [122][ page needed] Rational thinking developed through a long age of change and formation, with the experiments of the Enlightenment and breakthroughs in the sciences. Tendencies that have come to define modern Western societies include the concept of political pluralism, individualism, prominent subcultures or countercultures (such as New Age movements) and increasing cultural syncretism resulting from globalization and human migration.

Historical divisions

The West of the Mediterranean Region during the Antiquity

The geopolitical divisions in Europe that created a concept of East and West originated in the ancient tyrannical and imperialistic Graeco-Roman times. [123] The Eastern Mediterranean was home to the highly urbanized cultures that had Greek as their common language (owing to the older empire of Alexander the Great and of the Hellenistic successors), whereas the West was much more rural in its character and more readily adopted Latin as its common language. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the beginning of the Medieval times (or Middle Ages), Western and Central Europe were substantially cut off from the East where Byzantine Greek culture and Eastern Christianity became founding influences in the Eastern European world such as the East and South Slavic peoples.[ citation needed]

The main travels of the Age of Discovery (began in 15th century)

Roman Catholic Western and Central Europe, as such, maintained a distinct identity particularly as it began to redevelop during the Renaissance. Even following the Protestant Reformation, Protestant Europe continued to see itself as more tied to Roman Catholic Europe than other parts of the perceived civilized world. Use of the term West as a specific cultural and geopolitical term developed over the course of the Age of Exploration as Europe spread its culture to other parts of the world. Roman Catholics were the first major religious group to immigrate to the New World, as settlers in the colonies of Spain and Portugal (and later, France) belonged to that faith. English and Dutch colonies, on the other hand, tended to be more religiously diverse. Settlers to these colonies included Anglicans, Dutch Calvinists, English Puritans and other nonconformists, English Catholics, Scottish Presbyterians, French Huguenots, German and Swedish Lutherans, as well as Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and Moravians.[ citation needed]

Ancient Greek and Hellenistic worlds (13th–1st centuries BC)

The ancient Greek world, c. 550 BC
The ancient Hellenistic Greek world from 323 BC

The ancient Greek civilization had been growing in the first millennium BC into wealthy poleis, so-called city-states (geographically loose political entities which in time, inevitably end giving way to larger organisations of society, including the empire and the nation-state) [124] such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth, by Middle and Near Eastern ones ( Sumerian cities such as Uruk and Ur; Ancient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician Tyre and Sidon; the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes).[ citation needed]

The then Hellenic division between the barbarians (term used by Ancient Greeks for all non-Greek-speaking people) and the Greeks contrasted in many societies the Greek-speaking culture of the Greek settlements around the Mediterranean to the surrounding non-Greek cultures. Herodotus considered the Persian Wars of the early 5th century BC a conflict of Europa versus Asia (which he considered all land north and east of the Sea of Marmara, respectively).[ citation needed] The Greeks would highlight what they perceived as a lack of freedom in the Persian world, something that they viewed as antithetical to their culture. [125]

According to a few writers, the future conquest of parts of the Roman Empire by Germanic peoples and the subsequent dominance by the Western Christian papacy (which held combined political and spiritual authority, a state of affairs absent from Greek civilization in all its stages), resulted in a rupture of the previously existing ties between the Latin West and Greek thought, [126] including Christian Greek thought.[ citation needed]

Ancient Roman world (6th century BC – AD 395–476)

The Roman Republic in 218 BC after having managed the conquest of most of the Italian peninsula, on the eve of its most successful and deadliest war with the Carthaginians
Graphical map of post-AD 395 Roman Empire highlighting differences between western Roman Catholic and eastern Greek Orthodox parts, on the eve of the death of last emperor to rule on both the western and eastern halves. The concept of "East-West" originated in the cultural division between Christian Churches. [123] Western and Eastern Roman Empires on the eve of Western collapse in September of AD 476.
The Roman Empire in AD 117. During 350 years the Roman Republic turned into an Empire expanding up to twenty-five times its area.

Ancient Rome (6th century BC – AD 476) is a term to describe the ancient Roman society that conquered Central Italy assimilating the Italian Etruscan culture, growing from the Latium region since about the 8th century BC, to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. In its 10-centuries territorial expansion, Roman civilization shifted from a small monarchy (753–509 BC), to a republic (509–27 BC), into an autocratic empire (27 BC – AD 476). Its Empire came to dominate Western, Central and Southeastern Europe, Northern Africa and, becoming an autocratic Empire a vast Middle Eastern area, when it ended. Conquest was enforced using the Roman legions and then through cultural assimilation by eventual recognition of some form of Roman citizenship's privileges. Nonetheless, despite its great legacy, a number of factors led to the eventual decline and ultimately fall of the Roman Empire.[ citation needed]

The Roman Empire succeeded the approximately 500-year-old Roman Republic ( c. 510–30 BC). [f] In 350 years, from the successful and deadliest war with the Phoenicians began in 218 BC to the rule of Emperor Hadrian by AD 117, Ancient Rome expanded up to twenty-five times its area. The same time passed before its fall in AD 476. Rome had expanded long before the empire reached its zenith with the conquest of Dacia in AD 106 (modern-day Romania) under Emperor Trajan. During its territorial peak, the Roman Empire controlled about 5,000,000 square kilometres (1,900,000 sq mi) of land surface and had a population of 100 million. From the time of Caesar (100–44 BC) to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, Rome dominated Southern Europe, the Mediterranean coast of Northern Africa and the Levant, including the ancient trade routes with population living outside. Ancient Rome has contributed greatly to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, technology and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a major influence on the world today. Latin language has been the base from which Romance languages evolved and it has been the official language of the Catholic Church and all Catholic religious ceremonies all over Europe until 1967, as well as an or the official language of countries such as Italy and Poland (9th–18th centuries). [127][ citation needed]

Ending invasions on Roman Empire since the 2nd and throughout the 5th centuries

In AD 395, a few decades before its Western collapse, the Roman Empire formally split into a Western and an Eastern one, each with their own emperors, capitals, and governments, although ostensibly they still belonged to one formal Empire. The Western Roman Empire provinces eventually were replaced by Northern European Germanic ruled kingdoms in the 5th century due to civil wars, corruption, and devastating Germanic invasions from such tribes as the Huns, Goths, the Franks and the Vandals by their late expansion throughout Europe. The three-day Visigoths's AD 410 sack of Rome who had been raiding Greece not long before, a shocking time for Greco-Romans, was the first time after almost 800 years that Rome had fallen to a foreign enemy, and St. Jerome, living in Bethlehem at the time, wrote that "The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken." [128] There followed the sack of AD 455 lasting 14 days, this time conducted by the Vandals, retaining Rome's eternal spirit through the Holy See of Rome (the Latin Church) for centuries to come. [129] [130] The ancient Barbarian tribes, often composed of well-trained Roman soldiers paid by Rome to guard the extensive borders, had become militarily sophisticated "Romanized barbarians", and mercilessly slaughtered the Romans conquering their Western territories while looting their possessions. [131]

The Roman Empire is where the idea of "the West" began to emerge. [g]

The Eastern Roman Empire, governed from Constantinople, is usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire after AD 476, the traditional date for the fall of the Roman Empire and beginning of the Early Middle Ages. The survival of the Eastern Roman Empire protected Roman legal and cultural traditions, combining them with Greek and Christian elements, for another thousand years. The name Byzantine Empire was first used centuries later, after the Byzantine Empire ended. The dissolution of the Western half, nominally ended in AD 476, but in truth a long process that ended by the rise of Catholic Gaul (modern-day France) ruling from around the year AD 800, left only the Eastern Roman Empire alive. The Eastern half continued to think of itself as the Eastern Roman Empire until AD 610–800, when Latin ceased to be the official language of the empire. The inhabitants called themselves Romans because the term "Roman" was meant to signify all Christians. The Pope crowned Charlemagne as Emperor of the Romans of the newly established Holy Roman Empire, and the West began thinking in terms of Western Latins living in the old Western Empire, and Eastern Greeks (those inside the Roman remnant of the old Eastern Empire). [132]

The birth of the European West during the Middle Ages

Apex of Byzantine Empire's conquests (AD 527–565)

In the early 4th century, the central focus of power was on two separate Imperial legacies within the Roman Empire: the older Aegean Sea Greek heritage (of Classical Greece) in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the newer most successful Tyrrhenian Sea Latin heritage (of Ancient Latium and Tuscany) in the Western Mediterranean. A turning point was Constantine the Great's decision to establish the city of Constantinople (today's Istanbul) in modern-day Turkey as the "New Rome" when he picked it as capital of his Empire (later called " Byzantine Empire" by modern historians) in AD 330.

The Byzantine Empire in AD 1025 before Christian East-West Schism

This internal conflict of legacies had possibly emerged since the assassination of Julius Caesar three centuries earlier, when Roman Imperialism had just been born with the Roman Republic becoming "Roman Empire", but reached its zenith during 3rd century's many internal civil wars. This is the time when the Huns (part of the ancient Eastern European tribes named barbarians by the Romans) from modern-day Hungary penetrated into the Dalmatian (modern-day Croatia) region then originating in the following 150 years in the Roman Empire officially splitting in two halves. Also the time of the formal acceptance of Christianity as Empire's religious policy, when the Emperors began actively banning and fighting previous pagan religions. [h]

History of the spread of Christianity: in AD 325 (dark blue) and AD 600 (blue) following Western Roman Empire's collapse under Germanic migrations.

The Eastern Roman Empire included lands south-west of the Black Sea and bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean and parts of the Adriatic Sea. This division into Eastern and Western Roman Empires was later reflected in the administration of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Greek Orthodox churches, with Rome and Constantinople debating over whether either city was the capital of Western religion.[ citation needed]

As the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches spread their influence, the line between Eastern and Western Christianity was moving. Its movement was affected by the influence of the Byzantine empire and the fluctuating power and influence of the Catholic church in Rome. The geographic line of religious division approximately followed a line of cultural divide.[ citation needed] The influential American conservative political scientist, adviser and academic Samuel P. Huntington argued that this cultural division still existed during the Cold War as the approximate Western boundary of those countries that were allied with the Soviet Union. [i]

Rise of the Germanic Frankish Empire before Charlemagne's coronation in Rome

In AD 800 under Charlemagne, the Early Medieval Franks established an empire that was recognized by the Pope in Rome as the Holy Roman Empire (Latin Christian revival of the ancient Roman Empire, under perpetual Germanic rule from AD 962) inheriting ancient Roman Empire's prestige but offending the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople, and leading to the Crusades and the east–west schism. The crowning of the Emperor by the Pope led to the assumption that the highest power was the papal hierarchy, quintessential Roman Empire's spiritual heritage authority, establishing then, until the Protestant Reformation, the civilization of Western Christendom.[ citation needed]

The earliest concept of Europe as a cultural sphere (instead of simple geographic term) is believed to have been formed by Alcuin of York during the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century, but was limited to the territories that practised Western Christianity at the time. [133]

The Latin Church of western and central Europe split with the eastern Greek patriarchates in the Christian East–West Schism, also known as the "Great Schism", during the Gregorian Reforms (calling for a more central status of the Roman Catholic Church Institution), three months after Pope Leo IX's death in April 1054. [134] Following the 1054 Great Schism, both the Western Church and Eastern Church continued to consider themselves uniquely orthodox and catholic. Augustine wrote in On True Religion: "Religion is to be sought... only among those who are called Catholic or orthodox Christians, that is, guardians of truth and followers of right." [135] Over time, the Western Christianity gradually identified with the "Catholic" label, and people of Western Europe gradually associated the "Orthodox" label with Eastern Christianity (although in some languages the "Catholic" label is not necessarily identified with the Western Church). This was in note of the fact that both Catholic and Orthodox were in use as ecclesiastical adjectives as early as the 2nd and 4th centuries respectively. Meanwhile, the extent of both Christendoms expanded, as Germanic peoples, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, Scandinavia, Finnic peoples, Baltic peoples, British Isles and the other non-Christian lands of the northwest were converted by the Western Church, while Eastern Slavic peoples, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Russian territories, Vlachs and Georgia were converted by the Eastern Orthodox Church.[ citation needed]

The Byzantine Empire in AD 1180 before Latin Fourth Crusade

In 1071, the Byzantine army was defeated by the Muslim Turco-Persians of medieval Asia, resulting in the loss of most of Asia Minor. The situation was a serious threat to the future of the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire. The Emperor sent a plea to the Pope in Rome to send military aid to restore the lost territories to Christian rule. The result was a series of western European military campaigns into the eastern Mediterranean, known as the Crusades. Unfortunately for the Byzantines, the crusaders (belonging to the members of nobility from France, German territories, the Low countries, England, Italy and Hungary) had no allegiance to the Byzantine Emperor and established their own states in the conquered regions, including the heart of the Byzantine Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire would dissolve on 6 August 1806, after the French Revolution and the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon.

The Greek Byzantine Empire split by a newly established Latin Crusader State after the Fourth Crusade (shown partly in Greece and partly in Turkey)

The decline of the Byzantine Empire (13th–15th centuries) began with the Latin Christian Fourth Crusade in AD 1202–04, considered to be one of the most important events, solidifying the schism between the Christian churches of Greek Byzantine Rite and Latin Roman Rite. An anti-Western riot in 1182 broke out in Constantinople targeting Latins. The extremely wealthy (after previous Crusades) Venetians in particular made a successful attempt to maintain control over the coast of Catholic present-day Croatia (specifically the Dalmatia, a region of interest to the maritime medieval Venetian Republic moneylenders and its rivals, such as the Republic of Genoa) rebelling against the Venetian economic domination. [136] What followed dealt an irrevocable blow to the already weakened Byzantine Empire with the Crusader army's sack of Constantinople in April 1204, capital of the Greek Christian-controlled Byzantine Empire, described as one of the most profitable and disgraceful sacks of a city in history. [137] This paved the way for Muslim conquests in present-day Turkey and the Balkans in the coming centuries (only a handful of the Crusaders followed to the stated destination thereafter, the Holy Land). [j] The geographical identity of the Balkans is historically known as a crossroads of cultures, a juncture between the Latin and Greek bodies of the Roman Empire, the destination of a massive influx of pagans (meaning "non-Christians") Bulgars and Slavs, an area where Catholic and Orthodox Christianity met, [138] as well as the meeting point between Islam and Christianity. The Papal Inquisition was established in AD 1229 on a permanent basis, run largely by clergymen in Rome, [139] and abolished six centuries later. Before AD 1100, the Catholic Church suppressed what they believed to be heresy, usually through a system of ecclesiastical proscription or imprisonment, but without using torture, [140] and seldom resorting to executions. [141] [142] [143] [144]

This very profitable Central European Fourth Crusade had prompted the 14th century Renaissance (translated as 'Rebirth') of Italian city-states including the Papal States, on eve of the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation (which established the Roman Inquisition to succeed the Medieval Inquisition). There followed the discovery of the American continent, and consequent dissolution of West Christendom as even a theoretical unitary political body, later resulting in the religious Eighty Years War (1568–1648) and Thirty Years War (1618–1648) between various Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire (and emergence of religiously diverse confessions). In this context, the Protestant Reformation (1517) may be viewed as a schism within the Catholic Church. German monk Martin Luther, in the wake of precursors, broke with the pope and with the emperor by the Catholic Church's abusive commercialization of indulgences in the Late Medieval Period, backed by many of the German princes and helped by the development of the printing press, in an attempt to reform corruption within the church. [145] [146] [147] [k]

Both these religious wars ended with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which enshrined the concept of the nation-state, and the principle of absolute national sovereignty in international law. As European influence spread across the globe, these Westphalian principles, especially the concept of sovereign states, became central to international law and to the prevailing world order. [148]

Expansion of the West: the Era of Colonialism (15th–20th centuries)

"Why do the Christian nations, which were so weak in the past compared with Muslim nations begin to dominate so many lands in modern times and even defeat the once victorious Ottoman armies?"..."Because they have laws and rules invented by reason."

Ibrahim Muteferrika, Rational basis for the Politics of Nations (1731) [149]

Portuguese discoveries and explorations since 1336: first arrival places and dates; main Portuguese spice trade routes in the Indian Ocean (blue); territories claimed by King John III of Portugal ( c. 1536) (green)
Apex of Spanish Empire in 1790

In the 13th and 14th centuries, a number of European travelers, many of them Christian missionaries, had sought to cultivate trading with Asia and Africa. With the Crusades came the relative contraction of the Orthodox Byzantine's large silk industry in favor of Catholic Western Europe and the rise of Western Papacy. The most famous of these merchant travelers pursuing East–west trade was Venetian Marco Polo. But these journeys had little permanent effect on east–west trade because of a series of political developments in Asia in the last decades of the 14th century, which put an end to further European exploration of Asia: namely the new Ming rulers were found to be unreceptive of religious proselytism by European missionaries and merchants. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks consolidated control over the eastern Mediterranean, closing off key overland trade routes.[ citation needed]

The Portuguese spearheaded the drive to find oceanic routes that would provide cheaper and easier access to South and East Asian goods, by advancements in maritime technology such as the caravel ship introduced in the mid-1400s. The charting of oceanic routes between East and West began with the unprecedented voyages of Portuguese and Spanish sea captains. In 1492, European colonialism expanded across the globe with the exploring voyage of merchant, navigator, and Hispano-Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus. Such voyages were influenced by medieval European adventurers after the European spice trade with Asia, who had journeyed overland to the Far East contributing to geographical knowledge of parts of the Asian continent. They are of enormous significance in Western history as they marked the beginning of the European exploration, colonization and exploitation of the American continents and their native inhabitants. [l] [m] [n] The European colonization of the Americas led to the Atlantic slave trade between the 1490s and the 1800s, which also contributed to the development of African intertribal warfare and racist ideology. Before the abolition of its slave trade in 1807, the British Empire alone (which had started colonial efforts in 1578, almost a century after Portuguese and Spanish empires) was responsible for the transportation of 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic. [151] The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806 by the French Revolutionary Wars; abolition of the Roman Catholic Inquisition followed.[ citation needed]

Due to the reach of these empires, Western institutions expanded throughout the world. This process of influence (and imposition) began with the voyages of discovery, colonization, conquest, and exploitation of Portugal enforced as well by papal bulls in 1450s (by the fall of the Byzantine Empire), granting Portugal navigation, war and trade monopoly for any newly discovered lands, [152] and competing Spanish navigators. It continued with the rise of the Dutch East India Company by the destabilizing Spanish discovery of the New World, and the creation and expansion of the English and French colonial empires, and others.[ citation needed] Even after demands for self-determination from subject peoples within Western empires were met with decolonization, these institutions persisted. One specific example was the requirement that post-colonial societies were made to form nation-states (in the Western tradition), which often created arbitrary boundaries and borders that did not necessarily represent a whole nation, people, or culture (as in much of Africa), and are often the cause of international conflicts and friction even to this day. Although not part of Western colonization process proper, following the Middle Ages Western culture in fact entered other global-spanning cultures during the colonial 15th–20th centuries.[ citation needed] Historically colonialism had been justified with the values of individualism and enlightenment. [153]

Replica of the Iberian Santa María, the wealthy Genoese merchant navigator Christopher Columbus's flagship during his first voyage, a large carvel-built ocean-going ship, financed by Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon. [154] Columbus had estimated a travel distance of 2,400 nmi (4,400 km), far too low. [155]

Colonialisation by Western/European powers (and others) since 1492
The Industrial Revolution, which began in Great Britain in the 1760s and was preceded by the Agricultural and Scientific revolutions in the 1600s, forever modified the economy worldwide.

The French Revolution had a major impact on European and Western history of governance by ending feudalism and creating the path for future advances in broadly defined individual freedoms. [156] [157] Its impact on French nationalism was profound, while also stimulating nationalist movements throughout Europe. [158] Modern historians argue the concept of the nation state was a direct consequence of the Revolution. [159] [154] Freedom movements for human and women rights, against slavery and religious control, are recorded with the French Revolution, including the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

The concepts of a world of nation-states born by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, coupled with the ideologies of the Enlightenment, the coming of modernity, the Scientific Revolution [160] and the Industrial Revolution, [161] would produce powerful social transformations, political and economic institutions that have come to influence (or been imposed upon) most nations of the world today. Historians agree that the Industrial Revolution has been one of the most important events in history. [162]

The course of three centuries since Christopher Columbus' late 15th century's voyages, of deportation of slaves from Africa and British dominant northern- Atlantic location, later developed into modern-day United States of America, evolving from the ratification of the Constitution of the United States by thirteen States on the North American East Coast before end of the 18th century.

In the early-19th century, the systematic urbanization process (migration from villages in search of jobs in manufacturing centers) had begun, and the concentration of labor into factories led to the rise in the population of the towns. World population had been rising as well. It is estimated to have first reached one billion in 1804. [163] Also, the new philosophical movement later known as Romanticism originated, in the wake of the previous Age of Reason of the 1600s and the Enlightenment of 1700s. These are seen as fostering the 19th century Western world's sustained economic development. [164] Before the urbanization and industrialization of the 1800s, demand for oriental goods such as porcelain, silk, spices and tea remained the driving force behind European imperialism in Asia, and (with the important exception of British East India Company rule in India) the European stake in Asia remained confined largely to trading stations and strategic outposts necessary to protect trade. [165] Industrialization, however, dramatically increased European demand for Asian raw materials; and the severe Long Depression of the 1870s provoked a scramble for new markets for European industrial products and financial services in Africa, the Americas, Eastern Europe, and especially in Asia (Western powers exploited their advantages in China for example by the Opium Wars). [166] This resulted in the " New Imperialism", which saw a shift in focus from trade and indirect rule to formal colonial control of vast overseas territories ruled as political extensions of their mother countries. [o] The later years of the 19th century saw the transition from "informal imperialism" ( hegemony) [p] by military influence and economic dominance, to direct rule (a revival of colonial imperialism) in the African continent and Middle East. [170]

The Slave Market (Gérôme painting), Orientalist French painting made during the second industrial revolution: portrays a 19th century's Mediterranean slave market, an example of the ruling in the Late Modern period.

Western empires as they were in 1910

Women's Suffrage Parade in New York City, May 6, 1912

During the socioeconomically optimistic and innovative decades of the Second Industrial Revolution between the 1870s and 1914, also known as the " Beautiful Era", the established colonial powers in Asia (United Kingdom, France, Netherlands) added to their empires also vast expanses of territory in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Japan was involved primarily during the Meiji period (1868–1912), though earlier contacts with the Portuguese, Spaniards and Dutch were also present in the Japanese Empire's recognition of the strategic importance of European nations. Traditional Japanese society became an industrial and militarist power like the Western British Empire and the French Third Republic, and similar to the German Empire.[ verification needed][ citation needed]

At the close of the Spanish–American War in 1898 the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam and Cuba were ceded to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. The US quickly emerged as the new imperial power in East Asia and in the Pacific Ocean area. The Philippines continued to fight against colonial rule in the Philippine–American War. [171]

By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, [172] and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), [173] 24% of the Earth's total land area. [174] At its apex, the phrase " the empire on which the sun never sets" described the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun always shone on at least one of its territories. [175] As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread throughout the Western World.[ citation needed] In the aftermath of the Second World War, decolonizing efforts were employed by all Western powers under United Nations (ex- League of Nations) international directives.[ citation needed] Most of colonized nations received independence by 1960. Great Britain showed ongoing responsibility for the welfare of its former colonies as member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. But the end of Western colonial imperialism saw the rise of Western neocolonialism or economic imperialism. Multinational corporations came to offer "a dramatic refinement of the traditional business enterprise", through "issues as far ranging as national sovereignty, ownership of the means of production, environmental protection, consumerism, and policies toward organized labor." Though the overt colonial era had passed, Western nations, as comparatively rich, well-armed, and culturally powerful states, wielded a large degree of influence throughout the world, and with little or no sense of responsibility toward the peoples impacted by its multinational corporations in their exploitation of minerals and markets. [176] [177] The dictum of Alfred Thayer Mahan is shown to have lasting relevance, that whoever controls the seas controls the world. [178]

Enlightenment (17th–18th centuries)

Eric Voegelin described the 18th-century as one where "the sentiment grows that one age has come to its close and that a new age of Western civilization is about to be born". According to Voeglin the Enlightenment (also called the Age of Reason) represents the "atrophy of Christian transcendental experiences and [seeks] to enthrone the Newtonian method of science as the only valid method of arriving at truth". [179] Its precursors were John Milton and Baruch Spinoza. [180] Meeting Galileo in 1638 left an enduring impact on John Milton and influenced Milton's great work Areopagitica, where he warns that, without free speech, inquisitorial forces will impose "an undeserved thraldom upon learning". [181]

The achievements of the 17th century included the invention of the telescope and acceptance of heliocentrism. 18th century scholars continued to refine Newton's theory of gravitation, notably Leonhard Euler, Pierre Louis Maupertuis, Alexis-Claude Clairaut, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Pierre-Simon de Laplace. Laplace's five-volume Treatise on Celestial Mechanics is one of the great works of 18th-century Newtonianism. Astronomy gained in prestige as new observatories were funded by governments and more powerful telescopes developed, leading to the discovery of new planets, asteroids, nebulae and comets, and paving the way for improvements in navigation and cartography. Astronomy became the second most popular scientific profession, after medicine. [182]

A common metanarrative of the Enlightenment is the "secularization theory". Modernity, as understood within the framework, means a total break with the past. Innovation and science are the good, representing the modern values of rationalism, while faith is ruled by superstition and traditionalism. [183] Inspired by the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment embodied the ideals of improvement and progress. Descartes and Isaac Newton were regarded as exemplars of human intellectual achievement. Condorcet wrote about the progress of humanity in the Sketch of the Progress of the Human Mind (1794), from primitive society to agrarianism, the invention of writing, the later invention of the printing press and the advancement to "the Period when the Sciences and Philosophy threw off the Yoke of Authority". [184]

French writer Pierre Bayle denounced Spinoza as a pantheist (thereby accusing him of atheism). Bayle's criticisms garnered much attention for Spinoza. The pantheism controversy in the late 18th century saw Gotthold Lessing attacked by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi over support for Spinoza's pantheism. Lessing was defended by Moses Mendelssohn, although Mendelssohn diverged from pantheism to follow Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in arguing that God and the world were not of the same substance (equivalency). Spinoza was excommunicated from the Dutch Sephardic community, but for Jews who sought out Jewish sources to guide their own path to secularism, Spinoza was as important as Voltaire and Kant. [185]

Cold War (1947–1991)

During the Cold War, a new definition emerged. Earth was divided into three "worlds". The First World, analogous in this context to what was called the West, was composed of NATO members and other countries aligned with the United States.

The Second World was the Eastern bloc in the Soviet sphere of influence, including the Soviet Union (15 republics including the then-occupied and presently independent Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and Warsaw Pact countries like Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, East Germany (now united with Germany), and Czechoslovakia (now split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia).

The Third World consisted of countries, many of which were unaligned with either, and important members included India, Yugoslavia, Finland ( Finlandization) and Switzerland ( Swiss Neutrality); some include the People's Republic of China, though this is disputed, since the People's Republic of China, as communist, had friendly relations—at certain times—with the Soviet bloc, and had a significant degree of importance in global geopolitics. Some Third World countries aligned themselves with either the US-led West or the Soviet-led Eastern bloc.

Maps on the Cold War East–west division
Spheres of influence between the Western world and the Soviet Union during the Cold War
The " Three Worlds" of the Cold War (between 30 April and 24 June 1975)
   First World: Countries aligned with the Western Bloc (i.e., NATO and allies), led by the United States
   Second World: Countries aligned with the Eastern Bloc (i.e., Warsaw Pact, China, and allies), led by the Soviet Union
   Third World: The Non-Aligned Movement, led by India and Yugoslavia, and other neutral countries
East and West in 1980, as defined by the Cold War. The Cold War had divided Europe politically into East and West, with the Iron Curtain splitting Central Europe.
European trade blocs as of 1988. EEC member states are marked in blue, EFTA – green, and Comecon – red.
Cold War colonial empires through decolonization. The global distribution of Christians: a darker shade means a higher proportion of Christians. [186]
" Western Christian civilization" (red) and " Eastern Christian civilization" (brown), according to Samuel Huntington. For Huntington, Latin America (dark green) was part of the West or a descendant civilization that was twinned to it. For Rouquié, Latin America is the " Third World of the West."

A number of countries did not fit comfortably into this neat definition of partition, including Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, and Ireland, which chose to be neutral. Finland was under the Soviet Union's military sphere of influence (see FCMA treaty) but remained neutral and was not communist, nor was it a member of the Warsaw Pact or Comecon but a member of the EFTA since 1986, and was west of the Iron Curtain. In 1955, when Austria again became a fully independent republic, it did so under the condition that it remain neutral; but as a country to the west of the Iron Curtain, it was in the United States' sphere of influence. Spain did not join the NATO until 1982, seven years after the death of the authoritarian Franco.

The 1980s advent of Mikhail Gorbachev led to the end of the Cold War following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Cold War II context

In a debated Cold War II, a new definition emerged inside the realm of western journalism. More specifically, Cold War II, [187] also known as the Second Cold War, New Cold War, [188] Cold War Redux, [189] Cold War 2.0, [190] and Colder War, [191] refers to the tensions, hostilities, and political rivalry that intensified dramatically in 2014 between the Russian Federation on the one hand, and the United States, European Union, NATO and some other countries on the other hand. [187] [192] Tensions escalated in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea, military intervention in Ukraine, and the 2015 Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War. [193] [194] [195] By August 2014, both sides had implemented economic, financial, and diplomatic sanctions upon each other: virtually all Western countries, led by the US and EU, imposed restrictive measures on Russia; the latter reciprocally introduced retaliatory measures. [196] [197]

Modern definitions

Asia (as the " Eastern world"), the Arab world, and Africa

The exact scope of the Western world is somewhat subjective in nature, depending on whether cultural, economic, spiritual or political criteria are employed. It is a generally accepted Western view to recognize the existence of at least three "major worlds" (or "cultures", or "civilizations"), broadly in contrast with the Western: the Eastern world, the Arab and the African worlds, with no clearly specified boundaries. Additionally, Latin American and Orthodox European worlds are sometimes either a sub-civilization within Western civilization or separately considered "akin" to the West.

Many anthropologists, sociologists and historians oppose "the West and the Rest" in a categorical manner. [198] The same has been done by Malthusian demographers with a sharp distinction between European and non-European family systems. Among anthropologists, this includes Durkheim, Dumont, and Lévi-Strauss. [198]

Since the fall of the iron curtain the following countries are generally accepted as the Western world: [199] the United States, Canada; the countries of the European Union plus the UK, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland; Australia and New Zealand. In addition, the microstates of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are considered Western.

Cultural definition

In modern usage, Western world refers to Europe and to areas whose populations largely originate from Europe, through the Age of Discovery's imperialism. [200] [26] [201]

The Western world derived on Samuel P. Huntington's 1996 Clash of Civilizations. [1] In turquoise are Latin America and the Orthodox World, which are either a part of the West or distinct civilizations intimately related to the West. [2] [3]

In the 20th century, Christianity declined in influence in many Western countries, mostly in the European Union where some member states have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years, [202] and also elsewhere. Secularism (separating religion from politics and science) increased. However, while church attendance is in decline, in some Western countries (i.e. Italy, Poland, and Portugal), more than half of the people state that religion is important, [203] and most Westerners nominally identify themselves as Christians (e.g. 59% in the United Kingdom) and attend church on major occasions, such as Christmas and Easter. In the Americas, Christianity continues to play an important societal role, though in areas such as Canada, a low level of religiosity is common due to a European-type secularization. The official religions of the United Kingdom and some Nordic countries are forms of Christianity, while the majority of European countries have no official religion. Despite this, Christianity, in its different forms, remains the largest faith in most Western countries. [204]

Christianity remains the dominant religion in the Western world, where 70% are Christians. [205] A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that 76.2% of Europeans, 73.3% in Oceania, and about 86.0% in the Americas (90% in Latin America and the Caribbean and 77.4% in Northern America) described themselves as Christians. [205] [206]

Since the mid-twentieth century, the west became known for its irreligious sentiments, following the Age of Enlightenment and the French Revolution, inquisitions were abolished in the 19th and 20th centuries, this hastened the separation of church and state, and secularization of the Western world where unchurched spirituality is gaining more prominence over organized religion. [207]

Certain parts of the Western World have become notable for their diversity since the late 1960s. [38] [39] Earlier, between the eighteenth century to mid-twentieth century, prominent western countries like the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand have been once envisioned as homelands for whites. [33] [34] [35] Racism has been noted as a contributing factor to Westerners' colonization of the New World, which makes up much of the geographical West today. [36] [37]

Countries in the Western world are also the most keen on digital and televisual media technologies, as they were in the postwar period on television and radio: from 2000 to 2014, the Internet's market penetration in the West was twice that in non-Western regions. [208]

Latin America

Huntington's map of major civilizations. [1] What constitutes Western civilization in post- Cold War world is coloured dark blue. He also shows that Latin America (shown in purple) is either a sub-civilization within Western civilization or a separate civilization akin to the West.

American political scientist, adviser and academic Samuel P. Huntington considered Latin America as separate from the Western world for the purpose of his geopolitical analysis. [1] Huntington's view has, however, been contested on a number of occasions as biased. [209] [210] Huntington also states that, while in general researchers consider that the West has three main components (European, North American and Latin American), in his view, Latin America has followed a different development path from Europe and North America. Although it is a scion of European (mainly Spanish and Portuguese) civilization, it also incorporates, to an extent, elements of indigenous American civilizations, absent from North America and Europe. It has had a corporatist and authoritarian culture that Europe had to a much lesser extent. Both Europe and North America felt the effects of the Reformation and combined Catholic and Protestant culture. Historically, Latin America has been only Catholic, although this is changing due to the influx of Protestants into the region. Some regions in Latin America incorporate indigenous cultures, which did not exist in Europe and were effectively annihilated in the United States, and whose importance oscillates between two extremes: Mexico, Central America, Peru and Bolivia, on the one hand, and Argentina and Chile on the other. [211] However, he does mention that the modus operandi of the Catholic Church was to incorporate native elements of pagan European cultures into the general dogma of Catholicism, and the Native American elements could be perceived in the same way. [212]

Subjectively, Latin Americans are divided on whether to consider themselves part of the West. A vast corpus of bibliographical material produced by Latin Americans and North Americans exposes in detail their cultural differences. Huntington goes on to mention that Latin America could be considered a sub-civilization within Western civilization, or a separate civilization intimately related to the West and divided as to its belonging to it. While the second option is the most appropriate and useful for an analysis focused on the international political consequences of civilizations, including relations between Latin America, on the one hand, and North America and Europe, on the other, he also mentions that the underlying conflict of Latin America belonging to the West must eventually be addressed in order to develop a cohesive Latin American identity. [213] [214]

Other countries

Most of South Africa's population is not of European ancestry, excepting a sizeable minority. [215] [216] The primary sources of the country's constitution are Roman-Dutch mercantile law & personal law and English Common law, imports of Dutch settlement and British colonialism respectively. [217] English, the country's lingua franca, is the main language used in official and business capacities and the sole language of record in South African courts. [218] [219] [220] English and Afrikaans – most similar to Dutch – are two of South Africa's eleven official languages. [221] [222] Christianity is the dominant religion and many denominations incorporate worship practices from traditional African religions. The Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventist denominations are also popular. [223]

The Philippines, although geographically part of the Eastern world and having a majority population that does not possess European ethnic origins aside from a significant minority, maintains strong Western-based influences in its culture. [224] Cape Verde also has significant influence from the Western world due to Portuguese colonization, seen through the country's language ( Portuguese), music, art [225] and the prevalence of Christianity. [226] The country's population is also overall, a mixture of African and European descent. [227] European influence is also evident in Namibia, which has a sizeable minority of European descent and was previously administered by Germany and then South Africa. [228] [229] [230]

Economic definition

Countries by income group
Map of the Western world consisting of the anglosphere (as defined by James Bennett), the European Union and European Single Market members, 2017

The term "Western world" is sometimes interchangeably used with the term First World or developed countries, stressing the difference between First World and the Third World or developing countries. This usage occurs despite the fact that many countries that may be culturally Western are developing countries – in fact, a significant percentage of the Americas are developing countries. It is also used despite many developed countries or regions not being culturally Western (e.g. Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao). Privatization policies (involving government enterprises and public services) and multinational corporations are often considered a visible sign of Western nations' economic presence, especially in Third World countries, and represent a common institutional environment for powerful politicians, enterprises, trade unions and firms, bankers and thinkers of the Western world. [231] [232] [233] [234] [235]

Views on torn countries

According to Samuel P. Huntington, some countries are torn on whether they are Western or not, with typically the national leadership pushing for Westernization, while historical, cultural and traditional forces remain largely non-Western. [236] These include Turkey, whose political leadership has since the 1920s tried to Westernize the predominantly Muslim country with only 3% of its territory within Europe. It is his chief example of a "torn country" that is attempting to join Western civilization. [1] The country's elite started the Westernization efforts, beginning with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who took power as the first president of the modern Turkish nation-state in 1923, imposed western institutions and dress, removed the Arabic alphabet and embraced the Latin alphabet. It joined NATO and since the 1960s has been seeking to join the European Union with very slow progress. [237]

Other views

A series of scholars of civilization, including Arnold J. Toynbee, Alfred Kroeber and Carroll Quigley have identified and analyzed "Western civilization" as one of the civilizations that have historically existed and still exist today. Toynbee entered into quite an expansive mode, including as candidates those countries or cultures who became so heavily influenced by the West as to adopt these borrowings into their very self-identity. Carried to its limit, this would in practice include almost everyone within the West, in one way or another. In particular, Toynbee refers to the intelligentsia formed among the educated elite of countries impacted by the European expansion of centuries past. While often pointedly nationalist, these cultural and political leaders interacted within the West to such an extent as to change both themselves and the West. [79]

The theologian and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin conceived of the West as the set of civilizations descended from the Nile Valley Civilization of Egypt. [238]

Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said uses the term "Occident" in his discussion of Orientalism. According to his binary, the West, or Occident, created a romanticized vision of the East, or Orient, to justify colonial and imperialist intentions. This Occident-Orient binary focuses on the Western vision of the East instead of any truths about the East. His theories are rooted in Hegel's master-slave dialectic: The Occident would not exist without the Orient and vice versa.[ citation needed] Further, Western writers created this irrational, feminine, weak "Other" to contrast with the rational, masculine, strong West because of a need to create a difference between the two that would justify imperialist ambitions, according to the Said-influenced Indian-American theorist Homi K. Bhabha.[ citation needed]

The West has been recognized for its politically individualist beliefs. [239] The idea of "the West" over the course of time has evolved from a directional concept to a sociopolitical concept, and has been temporalized and rendered as a concept of the future bestowed with notions of progress and modernity. [30] The progress of the West in the attainment of Women's rights since the late nineteenth century has been noticeable; in the twenty-first century, women in general of the West have been considered the "liberated, autonomous subjects" in comparison to women from 'other cultures' who are still becoming so. Feminism has often been "criticized for being inherently white and western." [240] [241]

Map illustrations of the West according to different but closely interrelated definitions

See also


Representation in the United Nations


  1. ^ Comprising Australia and New Zealand, excluding the Pacific island nations.
  2. ^ Including Central European countries, Baltics and territories of Western European nations geographically located in the coast of North Africa, such as Madeira and the Canary Islands.
  3. ^ Latin America's status as a part of the West is undisputed by most researchers and disputed by others. [4]
  4. ^ See  [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48]
    See  [49] [50] [51] [52] [53]
    The Parthenon, a former temple ( Athens, c. 430 BC). The Victorious Youth, a controversial Greek bronze ( Greece, c. 300–100 BC). Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, seats up to 14,000 people ( Epidaurus, c. 150 BC).
  5. ^
    Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct ( Vers-Pont-du-Gard, c. 20 BC-AD 50). The Pantheon, a former temple visited—in 2013 alone—by over six million people ( Rome, c. AD 120). The Aula Palatina, a Roman palace, then a Christian basilica ( Trier, c. AD 310).
    See  [54] [55] [56] [57]
  6. ^ The Roman Republic had been weakened by the conflict between Gaius Marius and Sulla and the civil war of Julius Caesar against Pompey and Marcus Brutus. During these struggles hundreds of senators were killed, and the Roman Senate had been refilled with loyalists[ vague] of the First Triumvirate and later those of the Second Triumvirate. Several dates are commonly proposed to mark the transition from Republic to Empire, including the date of Julius Caesar's appointment as perpetual Roman dictator (44 BC), the victory of Caesar's heir Octavian at the Battle of Actium (2, 31 September BC), and the Roman Senate's granting to Octavian the honorific Augustus. (16, 27 January BC). Octavian/Augustus officially proclaimed that he had saved the Roman Republic and carefully disguised his power under republican forms: Consuls continued to be elected, tribunes of the plebeians continued to offer legislation, and senators still debated in the Roman Curia. However, it was Octavian who influenced everything and controlled the final decisions, and in final analysis, had the legions to back him up, if it became necessary.
  7. ^ By Rome's central location at the heart of the Empire, "West" and "East" were terms used to denote provinces west and east of the capital itself. Therefore, Iberia (Portugal and Spain), Gaul (France), the Mediterranean coast of North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco) and Britannia were all part of the "West". Greece, Cyprus, Anatolia, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Libya were part of the "East". Italy itself was considered central, until the reforms of Diocletian dividing the Empire into true two halves: Eastern and Western.[ citation needed]
  8. ^ Strategically more appealing than Rome because of its access to a second smaller water basin, the Euxine Sea (meaning "hospitable", and later called Black Sea) and its proximity to the Mesopotamia, the "would be" next Roman Empire's conquest. The Latins had become an Empire because they had managed to control the Mediterranean Sea, as water basins were the most appealing locations to armies in the ancient era. For this reason probably, the Romans were more seduced by the strategic Asian access of Byzantium in the Turkish area, than that of any other Eastern European location around the Danube river. This situation may have led to Huns' successful invasion that originated Empire's division (and later its collapse) during the course of the 3rd century AD.[ citation needed]
  9. ^ Others have fiercely criticized these views arguing they confuse the Eastern Roman Empire with Russia, especially considering the fact that the country that had the most historical roots in Byzantium (Greece) expelled communists and was allied with the West during the Cold War. Still, Russia accepted Eastern Christianity from the Byzantine Empire (by the Patriarch of Constantinople: Photios I) linking Russia very close to the Eastern Roman Empire world. Later on, in 16th century Russia created its own religious centre in Moscow. Religion survived in Russia beside severe persecution carrying values alternative to the communist ideology.[ citation needed]
  10. ^ The Dalmatia remained under Venice domination throughout next centuries (even constituting an Italian territorial claim by the Treaty of Versailles in the aftermath of the First World War and through successive Italy's fascist period's demands).
  11. ^ These changes were adopted by the Scandinavian kings. Later, French commoner Jean Cauvin (John Calvin) assumed the religio-political leadership in Geneva, a former ecclesiastical city whose prior ruler had been the bishop. The English king later improvised on the Lutheran model, but subsequently many Calvinist doctrines were adopted by popular dissenters paralleling the struggles between the King and Parliament lead to the English Civil War (1642–1651) between royalists and parliamentarians, while both colonized North America eventually resulting in an independent United States of America (1776) during the Industrial Revolution.
  12. ^ Portuguese sailors began exploring the coast of Africa and the Atlantic archipelagos in 1418–19, using recent developments in navigation, cartography and maritime technology such as the caravel, in order that they might find a sea route to the source of the lucrative spice trade.[ citation needed] In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa under the sponsorship of Portugal's John II, from which point he noticed that the coast swung northeast ( Cape of Good Hope).[ citation needed] In 1492 Christopher Columbus would land on an island in the Bahamas archipelago on behalf of the Spanish, and documenting the Atlantic Ocean's routes would be granted a coat of arms by Pope Alexander VI motu proprio in 1502.[ citation needed] With the discovery of the American continent or ' New World' in 1492–1493, the European colonial Age of Discovery and exploration was born, revisiting an imperialistic view accompanied by the invention of firearms, while marking the start of the Modern Era. During this long period the Catholic Church launched a major effort to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the Native Americans and others. A 'Modern West' emerged from the Late Middle Ages (after the Renaissance and fall of Constantinople) as a new civilization greatly influenced by the interpretation of Greek thought preserved in the Byzantine Empire, and transmitted from there by Latin translations and emigration of Greek scholars through Renaissance humanism. (Popular typefaces such as italics were inspired and designed from transcriptions during this period.) Renaissance architectural works, revivals of Classical and Gothic styles, flourished during this modern period throughout Western colonial empires. In 1497 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama made the first open voyage from Europe to India.[ citation needed] In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator in the service of the Crown of Castile (' Spain'), found a sea route into the Pacific Ocean.
  13. ^ In the 16th century, the Portuguese broke the (overland) Medieval monopoly of the Arabs and Italians of trade (goods and slaves) between Asia and Europe by the discovery of the sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope. [150] With the ensuing rise of the rival Dutch East India Company, Portuguese influence in Asia was gradually eclipsed; Dutch forces first established fortified independent bases in the East and then between 1640 and 1660 wrestled some southern Indian ports, and the lucrative Japan trade from the Portuguese. Later, the English and the French established some settlements in India and trade with China, and their own acquisitions would gradually surpass those of the Dutch. In 1763, the British eliminated French influence in India and established the British East India Company as the most important political force on the Indian Subcontinent.
  14. ^ Although Christianized by early Middle Ages, Ireland is soon colonised in 16th- and 17th-century with settlers from the neighboring island of Great Britain (several people committed in the establishment of these colonies in Ireland, would later also colonise North America initiating the British Empire), while Iceland still uninhabited long after the rest of Western Europe had been settled, by 1397–1523 would eventually be united in one alliance with all of the Nordic states (kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway).
  15. ^ The Scramble for Africa was the occupation, division, and colonization of African territory by European powers during the period of New Imperialism, between 1881 and 1914. It is also called the 'Partition of Africa' and by some the 'Conquest of Africa'. In 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under formal Western/European control; by 1914 it had increased to almost 90 percent of the continent, with only Ethiopia (Abyssinia), the Dervish state (a portion of present-day Somalia) [167] and Liberia still being independent.
  16. ^ In ancient Greece (8th century BC – AD 6th century), hegemony denoted the politico-military dominance of a city-state over other city-states. [168] The dominant state is known as the hegemon. [169]


  1. ^ a b c d e THE WORLD OF CIVILIZATIONS: POST-1990 scanned image Archived 12 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Huntington, Samuel P. (1991). Clash of Civilizations (6th ed.). Washington, DC. pp.  38–39. ISBN  978-0-684-84441-1. The origin of western civilization is usually dated to 700 or 800 AD. In general, researchers consider that it has three main components, in Europe, North America and Latin America. [...] However, Latin America has followed a quite different development path from Europe and North America. Although it is a scion of European civilization, it also incorporates more elements of indigenous American civilizations compared to those of North America and Europe. It also currently has had a more corporatist and authoritarian culture. Both Europe and North America felt the effects of Reformation and combination of Catholic and Protestant cultures. Historically, Latin America has been only Catholic, although this may be changing. [...] Latin America could be considered, or a sub-set, within Western civilization, or can also be considered a separate civilization, intimately related to the West, but divided as to whether it belongs with it.{{ cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher ( link)
  3. ^ a b Huntington, Samuel P. (2 August 2011). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon & Schuster. pp. 151–154. ISBN  978-1451628975.
  4. ^ Espinosa, Emilio Lamo de (4 December 2017). "Is Latin America part of the West?" (PDF). Elcano Royal Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ Stearns, Peter N. (2008). Western Civilization in World History. Routledge. pp. 88–95. ISBN  9781134374755.
  6. ^ "Is Eastern Europe part of the Western world?". Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  7. ^ Espinosa, Emilio Lamo de. "Is Latin America part of the West?". Elcano Royal Institute. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  8. ^ Hunt, Lynn; Martin, Thomas R.; Rosenwein, Barbara H.; Smith, Bonnie G. (2015). The Making of the West: People and Cultures. Bedford/St. Martin's. p. 4. ISBN  978-1457681523. The making of the West depended on cultural, political, and economic interaction among diverse groups. The West remains an evolving concept, not a fixed region with unchanging borders and members.
  9. ^ a b c Shvili, Jason (26 April 2021). "The Western World". Archived from the original on 1 October 2022.
  10. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (18 December 2007). Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN  978-0-307-42518-8. the term "Western" — refer to the culture of classical antiquity that arose in Greece and Rome; survived the collapse of the Roman Empire; spread to western and northern Europe; then during the great periods of exploration and colonization of the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries expanded to the Americas, Australia and areas of Asia and Africa; and now exercises global political, economic, cultural, and military power far greater than the size of its territory or population might otherwise suggest.
  11. ^ Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2006). Western Civilization. Wadsworth. pp. xxxiii. ISBN  9780534646028. people in these early civilizations viewed themselves as subjects of states or empires, not as members of Western civilization. With the rise of Christianity during the Late Roman Empire, however, peoples in Europe began to identify themselves as part of a civilization different from others, such as that of Islam, leading to a concept of a Western civilization different from other civilizations. In the fifteenth century, Renaissance intellectuals began to identify this civilization not only with Christianity but also with the intellectual and political achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Important to the development of the idea of a distinct Western civilization were encounters with other peoples. Between 700 and 1500, encounters with the world of Islam helped define the West. But after 1500, as European ships began to move into other parts of the world, encounters with peoples in Asia, Africa, and the Americas not only had an impact on the civilizations found there but also affected how people in the West defined themselves. At the same time, as they set up colonies, Europeans began to transplant a sense of Western identity to other areas of the world, especially North America and parts of Latin America, that have come to be considered part of Western civilization.
  12. ^ Stearns, Peter N. (2008). Western Civilization in World History. Routledge. pp. 94–95. ISBN  9781134374755. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Western civilization expanded geographically, in whole or in part. [...] a host of major trends... occurred essentially in parallel, suggesting significant cohesion within an expanded Western civilization. The industrial revolution, though launched in Britain, turned out to be a transatlantic process very quickly. ... The same applies to the new movement to limit per capita birth rates – the demographic transition that ran through Western civilization during the 19th century... and the outcomes by 1900, in unprecedentedly low birth rates per family combined with rapidly falling infant death rates, was essentially the same through out this expanded Western world.
  13. ^ Sharon, Moshe (2004). Studies in Modern Religions, Religious Movements and the Babi-Baha'i Faiths. BRILL Academic Publishers. p. 12. ISBN  978-9004139046. Side by side with Christianity, the classical Greco-Roman world forms the sound foundation of Western civilization. Greek philosophy is also the origin for the methods and contents of the philosophical thought and theological investigation in Islam and Judaism.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Nayak, Meghana; Selbin, Eric (2010). Decentering International Relations. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 2. ISBN  9781848132405. First, IR focuses primarily on and legitimizes the actions and decisions of the US and the global North/West. Second, IR privileges certain political projects, such as neoliberal economic policies, state-centrism, and Northern/Western liberal democracy. Third, IR legitimizes the most privileged socio-political players and institutions, in both the Global North/West and the Global South [...] When we say 'North/West,' we mean primarily the US, but also Great Britain, 'Western' European countries, and, depending on context, limited others.
  16. ^ Lazar, Michelle M. (2005). Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis Studies in Gender, Power and Ideology. Springer. p. 15. ISBN  9780230599901. For example, it is now fairly common place in many universities in the global north/west and in some universities in the south/east to include gender-related modules, including studies on gender and language, in their curricula.
  17. ^ Pagden, Anthony (2008). Worlds at War The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West. Oxford University Press. pp. xi. ISBN  9780199237432. The awareness that East and West were not only different regions of the world but also regions filled with different peoples, with different cultures, worshipping different gods and, most crucially, holding different views on how best to live their lives, we owe not to an Asian but to a Western people: the Greeks. It was a Greek historian, Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C.E., who first stopped to ask what it was that divided Europe from Asia [...] This East as Herodotus knew it, the lands that lay between the European peninsula and the Ganges
  18. ^ Shvili, Jason (26 April 2021). "The Western World". Archived from the original on 1 October 2022. The concept of the Western world, as opposed to other parts of the world, was born in ancient Greece, specifically in the years 480-479 BCE, when the ancient Greek city states fought against the powerful Persian Empire to the east.
  19. ^ Hunt, Lynn; Martin, Thomas R.; Rosenwein, Barbara H.; Smith, Bonnie G. (2015). The Making of the West: People and Cultures. Bedford/St. Martin's. p. 4. ISBN  978-1457681523. Building on concepts from the Near East, Greeks originated the idea of the West as a separate region, identifying Europe as the West (where the sun sets) and different from the East (where the sun rises).
  20. ^ "East-West Schism". Archived from the original on 29 September 2023.
  21. ^ Ware, Kallistos (1993). The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books. ISBN  9780140146561. But even after 1054 friendly relations between east and west continued. The two parts of Christendom were not yet conscious of a great gulf of separation between them, and people on both sides still hoped that the misunderstandings could be cleared up without too much difficulty. The dispute remained something of which ordinary Christians in east and west were largely unaware. It was the Crusades which made the schism definitive: they introduced a new spirit of hatred and bitterness, and they brought the whole issue down to the popular level.
  22. ^ Durant, Will; Durant, Ariel (2012). The Lessons of History. Simon and Schuster. ISBN  9781439170199. The Crusades, like the wars of Rome with Persia, were attempts of the West to capture trade routes to the East; the discovery of America was a result of the failure of the Crusades.
  23. ^ Peterson, Paul Silas (2019). The Decline of Established Christianity in the Western World. Routledge. p. 26. ISBN  9780367891381. While "Western Civilization" is a common theme in the curriculum of secondary and tertiary education, there is a great deal of disagreement about what the terms "West" or "Western" world signify. I have defined it as those "religious traditions, institutions, cultures and nations, including their contemporary shared values, that together emerged as the intellectual descendants and transformers of Latin Christendom." Geographically, this entails Western Europe (including Poland and other central European countries), North America and many other parts of the world that share these traditions and histories, or have adopted them. Much of Central and South America seem to reflect these traditions and values.
  24. ^ Pagden, Anthony (2008). Worlds at War The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West. Oxford University Press. pp. xv. ISBN  9780199237432. The English word "West" was originally an adverb of direction. It meant, in effect, "farther down, farther away". By the Middle Ages, it was already being used by Europeans to describe Europe, and by the late six-teenth century, it had become associated with forward movement, with youth and vigor, and ultimately, as Europe expanded—westward—with "civilization". Ever since the eighteenth century, the word has been applied not only to Europe but also to Europe's settlers overseas, to the wider European World.
  25. ^ Appiah, Kwame Anthony (9 November 2016). "There is no such thing as western civilisation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 April 2023. Often, in recent years, "the west" means the north Atlantic: Europe and her former colonies in North America. The opposite here is a non-western world in Africa, Asia and Latin America – now dubbed "the global south" – though many people in Latin America will claim a western inheritance, too. This way of talking notices the whole world, but lumps a whole lot of extremely different societies together, while delicately carving around Australians and New Zealanders and white South Africans, so that "western" here can look simply like a euphemism for white.
  26. ^ a b Gregerson, Linda; Juster, Susan (2011). Empires of God: Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN  978-0812222609. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
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  29. ^ Shvili, Jason (26 April 2021). "The Western World". Archived from the original on 1 October 2022. Thus, Japan could be considered part of the West because it maintains a Western-style democracy, even though it is located in the Far East. At the same time, Cuba still clings to communism, and it is argued by many that the ruling regime of Cuba does not hold so-called Western values, even though it is geographically in the Western Hemisphere.
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    • "White New Zealand policy introduced | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 8 March 2021. New Zealand's immigration policy in the early 20th century was strongly influenced by racial ideology. The Immigration Restriction Amendment Act 1920 required intending immigrants to apply for a permanent residence permit before they arrived in New Zealand. Permission was given at the discretion of the minister of customs. The Act enabled officials to prevent Indians and other non-white British subjects entering New Zealand.
  36. ^ a b Cotter, Anne-Marie Mooney (2016). Culture Clash: An International Legal Perspective on Ethnic Discrimination. Routledge. p. 12. ISBN  9781317155867. In the western world, racism evolved, twinned with the doctrine of white supremacy, and helped fuel the European exploration, conquest and colonization of much of the rest of the world.
  37. ^ a b Jalata, Asafa (2002). Fighting Against the Injustice of the State and Globalization. Springer. p. 40. ISBN  9780312299071. Western world racism inflated the values of "Europeanness" and "Whiteness" in areas of civilization, human worth, and culture, and deflated the values of "African-ness" and "Blackness".
  38. ^ a b Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2006). Western Civilization. Wadsworth. p. 918. ISBN  9780534646028. Intellectually and culturally, the Western world after 1965 was notable for its diversity and innovation.
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  40. ^ Ricardo Duchesne (7 February 2011). The Uniqueness of Western Civilization. BRILL. p. 297. ISBN  978-90-04-19248-5. The list of books which have celebrated Greece as the "cradle" of the West is endless; two more examples are Charles Freeman's The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World (1999) and Bruce Thornton's Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (2000)
  41. ^ Chiara Bottici; Benoît Challand (11 January 2013). The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations. Routledge. p. 88. ISBN  978-1-136-95119-0. The reason why even such a sophisticated historian as Pagden can do it is that the idea that Greece is the cradle of civilisation is so much rooted in western minds and school curricula as to be taken for granted.
  42. ^ William J. Broad (2007). The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 120. ISBN  978-0-14-303859-7. In 1979, a friend of de Boer's invited him to join a team of scientists that was going to Greece to assess the suitability of the ... But the idea of learning more about Greece — the cradle of Western civilization, a fresh example of tectonic forces at ...
  43. ^ Maura Ellyn; Maura McGinnis (2004). Greece: A Primary Source Cultural Guide. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 8. ISBN  978-0-8239-3999-2.
  44. ^ John E. Findling; Kimberly D. Pelle (2004). Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 23. ISBN  978-0-313-32278-5.
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  47. ^ Mario Iozzo (2001). Art and History of Greece: And Mount Athos. Casa Editrice Bonechi. p. 7. ISBN  978-88-8029-435-1. The capital of Greece, one of the world's most glorious cities and the cradle of Western culture,
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Further reading