Top 10 List
Author: Bruce Salmestrelli email@example.com
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 14:59:47 -0400
Several years ago there was list generated containing the names of the 100 most important influencial people in world history. The list generated some controvery about who should be in the number one position -- the disagreement was between Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed. I can't remember who published the list and cannot find my copy. Can anyone help me? Thanks.
Author:Tom Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 1998 21:07:11 -0400
*The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History* (1978, Revised and Updated in 1992), by Michael H. Hart The top ten are: Muhammad Newton Jesus Buddha Confucius St. Paul T'sai Lun (inventor of paper) Gutenberg Columbus Einstein As you can see, the list is wildly Eurocentric. While the author gives religious leaders emphasis in the top ten, the list generally favors individuals who contributed to the advancement of science.
Author: Sherri West email@example.com
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 1998 21:08:57 -0400
Dear Bruce, You're referring to Michael Hart's _The 100_, Citadel Press, Carol Publishing Group, (Sales division: 120 enterprise Ave., Secaucus, NJ 07094),originally published in 1978 and updated in 1992. (and some revisions of the original--Marx and Lenin moved down, Gorbachev added, for example.) Even in his revised book, Jesus still ends us as 3#, with Newton #2 and Muhammad still #1. We've used it as a discussion tool in our World Civilizations courses for many years and comparisons of Muhammad and Jesus (Paul is #5 by the way) never fail to touch off a lively discussion. If you'd like any more info feel free to email me.
Author: Art Preisinger APreisinger@txlutheran.edu
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 23:48:56 -0400
Tom Martin says the Top Ten (of the most influential persons . . .) is "wildly" Eurocentric. Six out of ten non-Europeans (indeed, six out of seven!) does not sound "wildly" Eurocentric to me.
Author: Roland Spickerman firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 20 Oct 1998 23:51:09 -0400
>The top ten are: >Muhammad >Newton >Jesus >Buddha >Confucius >St. Paul >T'sai Lun (inventor of paper) >Gutenberg >Columbus >Einstein > >As you can see, the list is wildly Eurocentric. While the author gives >religious leaders emphasis in the top ten, the list generally favors >individuals who contributed to the advancement of science. I do not consider this list "wildly" eurocentric at all. I have to disagree on two counts. First, six of these ten were not Europeans; only Newton, Gutenberg, Columbus, and Einstein could be seen as such. Likewise, the European origins of even these four does not automatically make their inclusion Euro-centric, either. (Under what circumstances would we accuse someone of sino-centrism for including Confucius or T'sai Lun?) It would be *only* if they had an exclusively or primarily European impact. In regard to these ten figures, though, their achievements have truly global (or at least multi-regional) significance, which makes them less euro- or region-specific, regardless of origins. Can one argue credibly, for example, that Jesus had an exclusively European impact? More plausible, I think, to argue that his impact was as much *through* Europe as *in* Europe. Does that make his inclusion eurocentric? The argument could apply to the others, as well. The geography of the impact outweighs the geography of the origin. * * * * * Second, I have to wonder why including individuals significant in science among the next 90 names should be considered euro-centric, too. Is the impact of a scientific discovery somehow inherently limited to one culture? Far more than political shifts, and arguably more than most cultural changes, scientific discoveries have more durable, long-term impacts, and because of that durability, are the most transcultural (and least eurocentric) of human activities. I would hope only that proper place is given to the non-European inventors of the zero and algebra. So: Eurocentric or even Occident-centric? Maybe... I'd have to see the rest of the list, and see how many only regionally significant politicians (ex: Bismarck or Bolivar) made it. "Wildly" eurocentric, though? I think not. * * * * * Side note: personally, I would replace Einstein with Marx, and Gutenberg with his nameless Chinese predecessor. I would be grateful if someone could supply his name, if he is not in fact unknown.
Author: Harald E.L. Prins email@example.com
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 15:17:37 -0400
This list is not only eurocentric, but also exclusively male. Why not have Mary, the wife of Joseph on it? Certainly, she has inspired millions of catholics in the entire world. But, regardless of these critiques, the whole thing is utterly silly and typically American. As a Dutch non-Catholic foreigner in this country, I could not resist commenting on this futile exercise. Good luck with the bickering about the BIG TEN!
Author: Richard Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 15:12:09 -0400
One question on my midterm exam last week was whether or not Thomas
Jefferson could be considered the "Man of the Millennium." We spent a
week on Jefferson, but most students focused on the presidential years
and decided "no."
In the debriefing session yesterday, however, they were much more
lively, crediting Jefferson with being the most (or among the most)
important people in promoting:
--the existence and independence of the United States
--inspiration for decolonization & self-determination of peoples
--equality, esp. overthrow of aristocracy and artificial hierarchy in
--proclaiming inalienable human rights (esp. freedom of religion)
--a method for democracy to actually work (i.e. mass-based political
-- minimal government intrusion into people's lives via small
government, low debt, low taxes, weak judiciary;
--abolition of slavery (noting his racial attitudes and personal
--"Empire of Liberty" as the foreign policy mission of the USA
That is such an impressive list that most students finally concluded
that yes indeed, Jefferson was the most important man of the last 1000
Author: Tom Martin email@example.com
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 15:27:50 -0400
The top ten are rather unrepresentative of the list as a whole. 84 of the Hart's top 100 most influential people in history are "Western".
Author: Adam McKeown firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 15:31:05 -0400
May I suggest that if the list of 100 influential people is meant as a medium for discussion and understanding some of the important forces of world history (of course, I do not believe that this is its only purpose) that religious founding figures like Jesus, Buddha and Confucius do not deserve to be at the top. Rather, the people who propagated and patronized their doctrines deserve the recognition for having created a force of global significance. Without St. Paul, or even Constantine, Jesus may well have gotten lost in the shuffle of competing cults. Similarly, Buddha would have been just another guru if not for the efforts of Ashoka. Confucius may have become one of the many forgotten Warring States schools if the first Han emperor had not paid respects at his grave, and even then would not have been nearly so relevant as it became had not Zhu Xi expanded, elaborated and propagated his work over a millenium later. The current irrelevance of Zoroaster and Mani (not to mention thousands of other even more forgotten figures) has less to do with them, than with developments after their deaths. Similarly, it seems perilous to confuse the influence of scientists and discoverers with the eventual influence of their discoveries. It is the social environment and accompanying technology that make a scientific advance important and useful, not the "discovery" itself. Paper and movable-type printing certainly had an important role in consolidating Chinese statecraft and ideology, but it was their effects in Europe that eventually made them into transformative technologies. Thomas Kuhn's work approaches issue from the other angle, showing how inventions and discoveries were not merely produced out of nothing by the great minds, but the product of a more general dissatisfaction with an existing paradigm. The relationship between scientific advances and the development of industrial and social technologies is not at all clear (the textbook example comes to mind of the steam engine in Alexandria that was used for nothing more than opening the heavy temple door). Perhaps to better understand the patterns of world history, we would be more advised to focus on the people and processes by which scientific discoveries were put to practical use. Edison and Ford, for example? (I hope these two are somewhere lower on the list), or the entrepreneurs who finally took a technology that had existed for decades under the limited imaginations of the academics and military, and finally made the adaptations necessary for contemporary PCs and the internet (would Jobs the salesman or Wozinak the technician be more influential)? In response to: > >The top ten are: > >Muhammad > >Newton > >Jesus > >Buddha > >Confucius > >St. Paul > >T'sai Lun (inventor of paper) > >Gutenberg > >Columbus > >Einstein
Author: Bob Fisher email@example.com
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 21:52:26 -0400
In line with the "Top Ten" proclivities facilitated by the internet, an even more furious--and wider--debate is in progress over the "Sporting News" list of the top 100 all time baseball players. If you listen carefully, the discourse is the same....
Author: A. Bowdoin Van Riper firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 21:58:29 -0400
Richard Jensen writes that: "most students finally concluded that yes indeed, Jefferson was the most important man of the last 1000 years." It's a neat exercise, and one I'd like to try myself (in more open-ended form) in the classroom, but I have to disagree with their conclusion. To call Jefferson the "man of the millenium" makes me profoundly uneasy. It implies that a movement (toward greater freedom, greater equality, and greater degrees of self-determination) that's barely two centuries old in its birthplace and less than a century old elsewhere is *the* defining story of the human experience over the last 1000 years. I hope, all else being equal, that it turns out to be so . . . but we're still too early in the story to take the end for granted. Better, perhaps, to nominate as "man of the millenium" some symbol of the Industrial Revolution (Watt? Ford?). It's gone farther, faster, and touched more people in more lasting ways than the Democratic Revolution has (yet). A transition often cited as the single biggest shift in human lifestyle since farming shouldn't be lightly dismissed.
Author: Jack Betterly email@example.com
Date: Sun, 25 Oct 1998 21:59:58 -0400
Adam McKeown's thoughtful response and critique is invaluable, not only for summarizing soberly and critically the problems of the list, but for highlighting what is, I believe, a series of conceptualizing clich=E9s which haunt history in general, as a discipline. We still love the "great man" theory of history. We still love the epic sweep of an Alexander of Macedon or the mythic grandeur of an Abraham Lincoln. Somerset Maugham once wrote, "There is little to choose among men." As much as we enjoy the stories of great heros and villains, they are more fairy stories than they are human history. The "Evil Genius" theories of Adolf Hitler distract us from the middle-class roots of the Holocaust; the "Newton's Falling Apple" tales allow simplistic visions of theoretical evolution. Political events are overemphasized because of clich=E9=B4s of power; women are neglected and/or romanticized because of clich=E9s of gender. Too many young historias are given the model of the statistician on the one hand or that of the Homeric bard on the other.
Author: Michelle Peck Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:07:18 -0400
Uhhh...several of these ideas weren't Jefferson's originally, but rather John Locke's. Now if someone wants to nominate LOCKE as "Man of the Millenium" that's a whole different story. Don't forget Montesquieu either! Jefferson was well-read, NOT original.
Author: Wendy Waters email@example.com
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:09:04 -0400
Excuse my jumping on the critique-Jefferson-as-man-of-the-millenium
bandwagon. But several things struck me in that post and the responses.
It's a good point for discussion, anyway.
For much of Latin America, especially Mexico, which is more my area of
focus, it was the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution that
inspired independence movements and new thoughts about the relationship
between the state and society, and the colonial power to the colony. This
is not to say Jefferson's writings had no influence, but that they were not
as influential as these other events going on (Yes, Bolivar borrowed from
him, but he was only influential in parts of Spanish South America at that
time). The 13 colonies were considered a rural, uncultured backwater by
many other areas of the world in the late eighteenth century. France was
the center of "civilization." Thus, I would seriously question calling
Jefferson the man of the millenium, when he had little influence outside
the 13 colonies/USA.
The issue of deciding the most influencial people of the millenium comes
from a culture concerned with heroes and villains. Not every culture or
nation does this (Canada and Brazil offer examples of cultures that tend
not to worship individuals, but institutions and events instead), so it's
somewhat of an ethnocentric (not quite the right word, but close enough)
question to ask. This is not to say that it is not a good question to ask
in a world history classroom, because I'm sure it draws discussion. But,
it may also be worth bringing in questions of important events of the
millenium, institutions, technologies/inventions, etc. Perhaps asking the
students which category (people, events, institutions, etc.) works best for
them (to understand the millenium), and why, would be useful (even as an
As an aside, on the Industrial Revolution idea, I'd agree and even go a
step backward. What about the inventor (or the invention) of the
mechanical clock, which Lewis Mumford considered the key machine of the
industrial age (and says was invented in the 13th century). Once people
could measure the passage of time no matter what the weather, there became
a demand for schedules, and time rationing.
And, we shouldn't forget Europeans acquiring the technology and interest in
exploring the globe in the 15th century had a large impact on a lot of
cultures. Remember the 500th anniversary of Columbus a few years ago,
marked by the indigenous peoples of the Americas as a genocide; it wasn't
that great for the millions of Africans forcebly moved to be slaves in the
Americas either. Yet, it also was a cultural flourishing for some, and an
opportunity for African, European, AmerIndian, and Asian cultures to mix
and establish new forms.
Author: Brad DeLong delong@econ.Berkeley.edu
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:11:36 -0400
Responding to A. Bowdoin Van Riper, Oct. 25:
To call Jefferson the "man of the millenium" makes me profoundly uneasy.
It implies that a movement (toward greater freedom, greater equality, and
greater degrees of self-determination) that's barely two centuries old in
its birthplace and less than a century old elsewhere is *the* defining
story of the human experience over the last 1000 years.
William the Silent? Magna Carta? The Lombard League?
The question "kings or people" is much older than Jefferson...
Author: Ricardo Duchesne firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:13:12 -0400
Some of the comments that followed the "top ten list" show how inescapable the issue of eurocentrism has become in any comparative study of world civilizations. Dare anyone suggest Europe contributed something "unique" to world history. What began as a valid critique against the ideological representation of the Rest as a uniform, immutable entity devoid of any cultural-economic dynamic, has now turned into a watchword against the very idea that Europe may have played *its own role* in the making of the modern world. Yes, the list is "utterly silly" (as someone here commented), if only because we know that the "top ten" could easily include twenty five or more. What about Socrates? - was he not the one who began that very process of self-reflective rationality that is very much a part of the critique of eurocentrism itself? In his ceaseless rational questioning of the customs and norms of his society, he represents a unique moment in history: the rise of self-consciousness as reason, and the beginning of a critically rational detachment from any natural, or culturally instilled values. This list is not only eurocentric, but also exclusively male. Why not have Mary, the wife of Joseph on it? Certainly, she has inspired millions of catholics in the entire world. But, regardless of these critiques, the whole thing is utterly silly and typically American. As a Dutch non-Catholic foreigner in this country, I could not resist commenting on this futile exercise. Good luck with the bickering about the BIG TEN!
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