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Dear Diary,

The Dow rose 13 points yesterday. Gold jumped $18.40 to settle at $1,201.90.

Nothing to get too excited about. So we return to “The Secret of Success.”

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was either a triumph for Western civilization or a bloody disaster, depending on how you look at it.

The battle – which pitted British against Zulu – took place on January 22, 1879, in what is now South Africa.

The Zulus vastly outnumbered the British. The Brits had 150 men – including regular troops, colonial troops and some sick men who were in the hospital at the mission station of Rorke’s Drift but who were able to fire a rifle. They faced between 3,000 and 4,000 Zulu warriors.

Did the battle show the world the secret to the West’s success?

Necessity may be the mother of invention. But Sir Garnet Wolseley, commander-in-chief of the British Army, didn’t think it was worth a medal.

“It is monstrous making heroes of those who, shut up in buildings at Rorke’s Drift, could not bolt, and fought like rats for their lives which they could not otherwise save,” he said, commenting on the many awards given to the survivors.

But American military historian Victor Davis Hanson can hardly stop his chest from swelling when he reads accounts of the battle.

“In the long annals of military history, it is difficult to find anything quite like Rorke’s Drift,” he writes, “where a beleaguered force, outnumbered 40 to 1, survived and killed 20 men for every defender lost.”

Was that success? Dead Zulus and living white men?

Why the West Won

Hanson – along with Guns, Germs and Steel author Jared Diamond – has a reputation for speculating about why Western civilization has been so much more successful than its competitors.

We do not drink the finest wines or eat cheeses imported from the Hindu Kush. We do not listen to chamber music from Borneo. Neither do we model our government after that of Thailand or Tasmania. We have yet to read a distinguished philosopher born and raised in the African bush. And if a Tamil engineer had invented the repeating rifle, we might be wearing a dhoti now rather than a white shirt with a button-down collar.

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