Carroll Quigley was a legendary teacher at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. His course on the history of civilization was extraordinary in its scope and in its impact on his students.
Like the course, The Evolution of Civilizations is a comprehensive and perceptive look at the factors behind the rise and fall of civilizations.
Quigley defines a civilization as "a producing society with an instrument of expansion." A civilization's decline is not inevitable but occurs when its instrument of expansion is transformed into an institution—that is, when social arrangements that meet real social needs are transformed into social institutions serving their own purposes regardless of real social needs.
"For years I have told my students that I have been trying to train executives rather than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to the distinction previously made between understanding and knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire several people with command of more knowledge than he has himself. And he can always buy reference works or electronic devices with better memories for facts than any subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he have understanding. He should be able to make decisions that make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be taught by an educational program that emphasizes knowledge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be eliminated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught."
Carroll Quigley (1910-1977) was a noted historian, polymath, and theorist of the evolution of civilizations.
Quigley was born in Boston, where he attended school and planned to pursue a career in biochemistry. But he soon shifted to history, to which he brought an analytical, scientific approach. After receiving a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D in history from Harvard University, he taught at Princeton and Harvard. In 1941 Quigley joined the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he came to teach a highly regarded course, "Development of Civilization".
As a spell-binding lecturer, Quigley made a strong impression on many of his students, including future U.S. President Bill Clinton.
In addition to his academic work, Quigley served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, the Smithsonian Institute, and the House Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration, which went on to establish NASA. Although Quigley remained a sought-after lecturer, over time he received fewer offers to consult, perhaps because he was unwilling to say what was politically acceptable.
Quigley served as a book reviewer for the "Washington Star" and was a contributor and editorial board member of "Current History".
Quigley authored two influential books: Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966); and The Evolution of Civilizations (1961, 1979). Several other books were published posthumously from his manuscripts, including The Anglo-American Establishment (1981).
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