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The western world

Posted by ESC on December 07, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of the concept of the western world posted by Peter Miller on December 06, 2003

: I am looking for the origin of the concept of the 'western world' or western civilisation. I have traced back to find that Rome was considered the centre of Western Civilisation during the time of the Caesars. This begs the question west of where? What is the 'middle east' and 'far east' near and far from?

: The term obviously now has more societal and political dimensions than geographic ones.

"The West" is discussed in one reference but it doesn't give an earliest use or origin. It is "the democratic industrial nations; national powers of Central and Western Europe and North America (sometimes including Japan) no longer in confrontation with what had been the Communist block.Modern democracy began in the West - that is, England and its Western Hemisphere colonies, in France, and elsewhere in Western Europe - which led to democratic values, and much of modern civilization, becoming known as 'Western.' Central European and Russian history was more autocratic as a rule and, from a Western point of view, 'Eastern,' while Japan and China were 'Far Eastern.' In the 1970s, that ethnocentric bias in language was noted, and the U.S. State Department changed 'Far East' to 'Asian' and 'Near East' to 'Eastern Mediterranean.'." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).