Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback

Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Why are some countries rich and others poor? In 1500, the income differences were small, but they have grown dramatically since Columbus reached America.

Since then, the interplay between geography, globalization, technological change, and economic policy has determined the wealth and poverty of nations.

The industrial revolution was Britain's path breaking response to the challenge of globalization.

Western Europe and North America joined Britain to form a club of rich nations by pursuing four polices-creating a national market by abolishing internal tariffs and investing in transportation, erecting an external tariff to protect their fledgling industries from British competition, banks to stabilize the currency and mobilize domestic savings for investment, and mass education to prepare people for industrial work.

Together these countries pioneered new technologies that have made them ever richer. Before the Industrial Revolution, most of the world's manufacturing was done in Asia, but industries from Casablanca to Canton were destroyed by western competition in the nineteenth century, and Asia was transformed into 'underdeveloped countries' specializing in agriculture. The spread of economic development has been slow since modern technology was invented to fit the needs of rich countries and is ill adapted to the economic and geographical conditions of poor countries.

A few countries - Japan, Soviet Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and perhaps China - have, nonetheless, caught up with the West through creative responses to the technological challenge and with Big Push industrialization that has achieved rapid growth through investment coordination. Whether other countries can emulate the success of East Asia is a challenge for the future.

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192 pages, 15 black and white line drawings
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Economic history
  • ISBN: 9780199596652



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

A modest proposal: Let's take every politician in the world and lock them up until they finish reading this book twice.Economics is simply too complicated to summarize in a book this short, and it shows. There are places where the author must simply dogmatically assert certain points, and others where he cannot document in full. There are a lot of situations he can't cover.But that's kind of the point: To make the situation simple enough to be clear -- and then one can start fiddling around the edges. This book makes a number of points very well. For instance, it makes a good argument for suiting a group's (nation's, company's) products to its resources -- of capital, cheap or expensive labor, etc.This is anathema to a lot of people today. Conservatives won't like the fact that it shows that governments <i>can</i> help make the economy more efficient -- by promoting education and infrastructure, by creating a stable financial system, and (when needed) by encouraging certain industries. But liberals may not like the fact that the government cannot, just by fiat, make all this work. It really is a matter of "appropriate technology" -- mostly a liberal idea, but one from which conservatives can also gain wisdom.This is, of course, not a book for advanced economists. But it is a very interesting little read for those who want a brief overview and some basic concepts.

Review by

An excellent introduction and recap.