Civilizations: A Cultural Atlas


96 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 0-7715-8179-3
DDC 909.07




Reviewed by Richard W. Parker

Richard W. Parker is an assistant professor of classics at Brock
University in St. Catharines.


Civilizations is intended for an audience highly attuned to visual media
(e.g., secondary students in Social Studies). It might also appeal to a
wider group whose interest in the past is eclectic. Multi-media and
interdisciplinary in approach, it bills itself as an “Integrated
Visual Resource” and is all three.

The book comprises 15 units, each on a different civilization. Each
unit is subdivided into three sections (“World View,” “Community
and Work,” and “People and Power”), although this scheme is
altered where the nature of the evidence or other considerations
dictate. In most units, the chronological focus is fairly sharp,
coinciding with what are traditionally regarded as periods of cultural
and political climax. The focal periods are sensibly chosen—for
example, Japan’s Feudal Period, 1350-1550 (the two centuries just
before contact with Europeans), and Judaism’s Rabbinic Era, 70-1250.

The true wealth of the book is the illustrations, including plans,
diagrams, charts, and photographs of art, artifacts, and documents. All
are of superb quality. Maps are especially numerous and useful. Boxed
inserts contain snippets of literature or documents that provide
“authentic voices” from the past.

Orienting text is scant, and sources for further reading are lacking.
Nevertheless, the various elements are sagely selected and well enough
integrated that considerable discussion can be initiated. Information on
women’s lives is consistently and unobtrusively included, and each
unit succeeds in presenting the civilization in a fair and positive
light. The unit on the Arab World is a particularly fine introduction to
an often misunderstood culture.

Although this book only scratches the surface, it provides fertile
seeds for minds wishing to explore a variety of human pasts.


Haberman, Arthur., “Civilizations: A Cultural Atlas,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,