Cover image for Power & greed : a short history of the world
Power & greed : a short history of the world
Deane, Philip.
Personal Author:
First Carroll and Graf edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, 2002.
Physical Description:
xiii, 258 pages ; 22 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


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D20 .D387 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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With purposeful brevity and intellectual liveliness Philippe Gigantes examines the progress of humanity through the centuries, and behind every critical event, in every culture and every era, he finds repeatedly the same two driving forces--omnivorous human greed and the quenchless thirst for power. In an engaging journey through four millennia Gigantes focuses first on the great rule-makers of history--Moses, Plato, Solon, Jesus, the Brahmans, the Buddha, Lao-tzu, Confucius, and Muhammad--who by the first century A.D. had laid down virtually all the principles that advance a fair and just society. Gigantes then revisits the sometimes destructive deeds and often amazing accomplishments of history's ruthless rule-breakers. These Grand Acquisitors, as Gigantes calls them, range from the warring chieftains of tribal societies to the robber barons of the nineteenth century and superpower nations of the twentieth. With a kind of historical inevitability, the actions of these dynamic acquisitors result in crusades and jihads, in revolutions and long, bloody military conflicts, in two world wars and catastrophic terrorist attacks. Defying historical orthodoxy, Gigantes argues that we humans have continually failed to benefit from the lessons of our own history. And we continue to invest power in politically and economically greedy acquisitors. In the reasons why, Gigantes hopes we cannot only gain further insight into what lies behind today's news headlines but also realize the means to a more civilized future.

Author Notes

Philippe Gigantes served as an officer in World War II with Britain's Royal Navy, worked as a correspondent for the Observer, and was captured and tortured by communists in North Korea. He served for fifteen years in the Senate of Canada, was assistant to Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, Director General in the Canadian Public Service, Greek Minister of Culture in Washington DC, a university dean, professor of history and a host and writer of a TV public affairs programme. He has published thirteen books.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to Gigantes, an author and former assistant to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the history of the world can be told as the story of greedy and power-hungry conquests. In spite of the efforts of leaders like Jesus or Buddha or Solon to offer principles of structure and order to societies, history has been shaped, he argues, by Grand Acquisitors who have broken society's rules in order to gain power. Gigantes first offers brief sketches of the rule-makers: among them are Moses, who introduced the 10 Commandments, Solon, who introduced democratic principles, and Jesus, who introduced the radical rule of forgiveness. Then the author briefly surveys history's Grand Acquisitors, ranging from the Roman empress Agrippina (who manipulated her husband, the emperor Claudius, and her son, Nero, in her quest to rule) to the conquest of Latin America by Corts and Pizarro, to what he views as today's corporate exploitation of postcolonial countries. Gigantes discusses the Crusades as an example of the greedy desires of the Christian Church to expunge all heretical sects and to maintain power over the known world. While the book contains interesting moments, Gigantes's thesis that insatiable greed and unquenchable thirst for power underlie all of history does not offer an especially new way of reading world events. Better, more detailed sketches of his rule-makers and his Grand Acquisitors can be found elsewhere (in Anthony A. Barrett's Agrippina, for example). Gigantes provides no startling new insights into why this way of thinking is any more helpful than other ways of reading history. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
About This Bookp. xi
Part 1 The Rules of Engagement
1 Moses (c. 14th-13th century BC)p. 3
2 Solon (c. 630-560 BC)p. 10
3 Plato (c. 428-347 BC)p. 22
4 Jesus (c. 5/1 BC-AD 30/33)p. 34
5 Brahminism, The Buddha, Lao-tzu, Confucius, Muhammad (3102 BC-AD 632)p. 41
Part 2 The Grand Acquisitors
6 Decline of the Roman Empire (1st century)p. 63
7 The Byzantine Empire (6th century)p. 77
8 Islamic Incursions into Europe (711-1603)p. 87
9 The Crusades (1095-1204)p. 99
10 Conquering Latin America (16th century)p. 112
11 The Conception and Birth-pangs of Protestantism (1517-1610)p. 128
12 Where the Sun that Never Set, Did Set (1783-1865)p. 142
13 The French Revolution and its Aftermath (1789-1821)p. 155
14 Prometheus and the Pax Britannica (19th century)p. 171
15 Three World Wars: Two Hot, One Cold (20th century)p. 187
16 The Global Village (21st century)p. 204
Epiloguep. 225
Appendix A Sobering Chronology of Warp. 229
Notes and Sourcesp. 233
Bibliographyp. 243
Indexp. 251