The Cathedral of Notre Dame. We often associate civilization with the written language, arts, architecture, music and other trappings of “civilization.” However, is our defintion a western construct that neglects other aspects of civilization?Is “technological development” the true mark of civilization? Is this textile printing machine from the early Industrial Revolution the hallmark of civilization? An urban landscape. Is the “organization of social groups” into this urban setting the definition of civilization? The purpose of this page is to offer the student the opportunity to develop a working definition of “Civilization” and then to compare that definition to the definition of “Culture.” This first link is The History Guide’s “Lectures on Ancient and Medieval History.” As the lecture on “What is Civilization” suggests, “… historians have often remarked, civilization is a word easier to describe than it is to define.” So, what is Civilization? What differentiates “Western” Civilization from “Eastern” Civilization? Should students of History study the “Great Civilizations” and ignore “Cultures”, leaving those areas to Cultural Anthropoligists and Geographers? Is the History of a “minor” Culture – Mays, Incas, Aztec, Maoris, etc – as important to our understanding of human History and development as Roman, Greek and Chinese “Civilization?”


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The “textbook” definition given at “Infoplease” states that civilization is “culture with a relatively high degree of elaboration and technical development.” Is this definition too simplistic…is there more to the idea of Civilization vs. Culture?

The International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations uses a different disciplines to approach the study of civilizations. Please review their site and refer to it in your post.

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