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The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present

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Why are railroad tracks separated by the same four feet, eight inches as ancient Roman roads? How did 19th-century Europeans turn mountains of bird excrement from Peru into mountains of gold? Where has most of the world's oil come from in the 20th century? This new edition of "The World That Trade Created" reveals the answers to dozens of tantalizing questions like these. Why are railroad tracks separated by the same four feet, eight inches as ancient Roman roads? How did 19th-century Europeans turn mountains of bird excrement from Peru into mountains of gold? Where has most of the world's oil come from in the 20th century? This new edition of "The World That Trade Created" reveals the answers to dozens of tantalizing questions like these. In a series of brief, highly readable vignettes the authors bring to life international trade and its actors - including migrants and merchants, pirates and privateers, sailors and slaves, traders and tree-tappers. In the process they make clear that the seemingly modern concept of economic globalization has deep historical roots. The authors also demonstrate that economic activity cannot be divorced from social and cultural contexts. This second edition provides enhanced coverage of Africa, the Middle East, and the 20th century, and features eighteen new vignettes, including two new pieces on oil.


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Why are railroad tracks separated by the same four feet, eight inches as ancient Roman roads? How did 19th-century Europeans turn mountains of bird excrement from Peru into mountains of gold? Where has most of the world's oil come from in the 20th century? This new edition of "The World That Trade Created" reveals the answers to dozens of tantalizing questions like these. Why are railroad tracks separated by the same four feet, eight inches as ancient Roman roads? How did 19th-century Europeans turn mountains of bird excrement from Peru into mountains of gold? Where has most of the world's oil come from in the 20th century? This new edition of "The World That Trade Created" reveals the answers to dozens of tantalizing questions like these. In a series of brief, highly readable vignettes the authors bring to life international trade and its actors - including migrants and merchants, pirates and privateers, sailors and slaves, traders and tree-tappers. In the process they make clear that the seemingly modern concept of economic globalization has deep historical roots. The authors also demonstrate that economic activity cannot be divorced from social and cultural contexts. This second edition provides enhanced coverage of Africa, the Middle East, and the 20th century, and features eighteen new vignettes, including two new pieces on oil.

30 review for The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    If you love economics and hate long-winded books with irrelevant graphs, this is the book for you. It's call-of-nature length sections are quick and easy to digest while imparting important tidbits about the history of trade. Moreover, the book does an excellent job of illuminating the impact of commodities on world trade and a countries development. It is historically accurate, well written, and entertaining. One caveat: If you have a low tolerance for the constant reiteration of the fact that If you love economics and hate long-winded books with irrelevant graphs, this is the book for you. It's call-of-nature length sections are quick and easy to digest while imparting important tidbits about the history of trade. Moreover, the book does an excellent job of illuminating the impact of commodities on world trade and a countries development. It is historically accurate, well written, and entertaining. One caveat: If you have a low tolerance for the constant reiteration of the fact that trade can lead to immoral outcome, this in not the book for you. The writers have a tendency to blame trade and market for these outcomes rather than explore the effects of government, politics, and culture as explanations. It is fair to point out that the demand for commodities is the initial reason for seeking out far flung lands, but to blame this demand on how it is obtained is rather shortsighted. There are other ways to obtain goods and services other than slavery, force, and addiction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily Logue

    This book was literally the bane of my existence in high school. The message is undoubtedly important, but its delivery is dry and unappealing. The book is filled with long winded stories that lead to a point that could have just as easily been expressed in a few short sentences. This book as taught me that as important as your message may be, you still have to make in sound interesting to get your audiences’ attention.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cory

    I love this book because it's all essays. You can pick it up and read one section at a time to get a mini history lesson. I love this book because it's all essays. You can pick it up and read one section at a time to get a mini history lesson.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Very dense book, but fascinating. Wish it went into more detail on a lot of the topics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James

    I once interviewed Kenneth Pomerantz for a TV show about Chinese inventions, and he knew what he was talking about then, and knows what he's writing about here. The book is breezy and cheeky, and the message grim to the point of catastrophe. Essentially, the world that trade created is a world of slavery and oppression--even when slavery and oppression are not the intended result (because sometimes that is the intended result). Imagine you're kicking back at a Starbucks (the authors seem to like I once interviewed Kenneth Pomerantz for a TV show about Chinese inventions, and he knew what he was talking about then, and knows what he's writing about here. The book is breezy and cheeky, and the message grim to the point of catastrophe. Essentially, the world that trade created is a world of slavery and oppression--even when slavery and oppression are not the intended result (because sometimes that is the intended result). Imagine you're kicking back at a Starbucks (the authors seem to like a cup of joe, all things considered) and you suddenly realize that your macchiato is really warm blood with a little froth on top. It would make you think. Or at the very least leave a bad taste in your mouth. The basic thrust of the essays is that every bit of business over the last 600 years has destroyed tropical paradises and put non-white people in peril of their lives. Although, apparently, British railways in the interior of India prevented that region from starving at one point. So...two cheers for imperialism? Not that white people only get the froth at the top of the blood-macchiato; again and again, Europeans and Americans, the elite and the masses, push for some trade regulation that ends up backfiring, because nobody actually understands economics. It seems that, around 1400, Europeans and Asians and the people far away in Africa and the Americas had a kind of just-enough-t0-go-around-and-live-okay lifestyle, and then it was one damn thing after another. But important to know about, and all told in a nice, breezy style.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike DeClue

    This might be the best required reading I've ever went through in high school, I don't recall if it was economics or history class, but I had to write a paper on it and I was absolutely blown away at the intricate web of connections that trade has through the different continents around the Atlantic. There probably isn't a more extreme example of cultural shifts on trade than the Japanese ending their self imposed exile of the world thanks to a rather intimidating navy knocking at their door, but This might be the best required reading I've ever went through in high school, I don't recall if it was economics or history class, but I had to write a paper on it and I was absolutely blown away at the intricate web of connections that trade has through the different continents around the Atlantic. There probably isn't a more extreme example of cultural shifts on trade than the Japanese ending their self imposed exile of the world thanks to a rather intimidating navy knocking at their door, but the economic and cultural timeline this book provides gives one a glimpse into trade and produce that makes oneself yearn to go pop in civilization for a few hundred hours in the PC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    If you don't know anything about economic world history, this is a good book to expose you to the topic. It's rather long, but the format makes it easy to read small bits at a time. Originally a series of magazine columns, this book wanders far and wide examining trade and its impact on various parts of the world. Each column is worthy of its own book, and there usually is one. There are two major themes discussed - drugs (coffee, tea, sugar, cocaine and others) and the use of violence in world t If you don't know anything about economic world history, this is a good book to expose you to the topic. It's rather long, but the format makes it easy to read small bits at a time. Originally a series of magazine columns, this book wanders far and wide examining trade and its impact on various parts of the world. Each column is worthy of its own book, and there usually is one. There are two major themes discussed - drugs (coffee, tea, sugar, cocaine and others) and the use of violence in world trade, especially the slave trade.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bob Gao

    Every day morning while I am drinking a tea or coffee!i did not know that there was a long history behind its trading and there were wars due to them While I was living in China I did not know that during Ming time, China was the most powerful country in the world. While I am impressed by the Europe industrialization, I did not know that it was only since 100years ago A great overview book on what we are eating and drinking.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kip

    A very good book. I read it in conjunction with Boorstin's "Discoverers" series, which covers similar ground. This book is a faster read but consistent with that, and has some unique insights. I enjoyed it a great deal. A very good book. I read it in conjunction with Boorstin's "Discoverers" series, which covers similar ground. This book is a faster read but consistent with that, and has some unique insights. I enjoyed it a great deal.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Monica Bond-Lamberty

    Very readable (helps that it comes in two page chapters) book that opens your eyes to the forces in world trade. Students often like the section on drugs and other commodities. However learning of the middle men is also crucial.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    A lot of eye-opening stories about world trade and its impact.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Huan

    Somewhat dry at points, but the fact that the book is presented in the form of a progression of essays mitigates that. It gave me a lot more perspective on why some things are the way they are now, and why things might change and how, in the future; a key point I learned, that now seems obvious in retrospect, is that sometimes, systems and institutions weren't constructed in a logical way just to exist, as it might seem, they emerged to serve specific goals (usually profit) and gained enough pow Somewhat dry at points, but the fact that the book is presented in the form of a progression of essays mitigates that. It gave me a lot more perspective on why some things are the way they are now, and why things might change and how, in the future; a key point I learned, that now seems obvious in retrospect, is that sometimes, systems and institutions weren't constructed in a logical way just to exist, as it might seem, they emerged to serve specific goals (usually profit) and gained enough power to influence the world at large. Overall a good introduction to more recent history, examined through a lens focused towards how commercial motives influenced the development and spread of culture, which is much different from the narrative-based teachings you find in school. (Though the presentation of the facts within a narrative help to keep the book interesting.) Starting was somewhat of a struggle, but I did learn a lot.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Morris

    Loved it. Fantastic book. This sat on my shelf for years because of its dull academic trade dress. When I finally took it down last month I was first pleasantly surprised, then fascinated, and then sad to come to the end. The book is made up of three to four page sections dedicated to the history of a particular commodity or trade route. I think the book originated as separate articles in a trade publication, but it's actually a good way to address the topic. Themes of exploitation and the impor Loved it. Fantastic book. This sat on my shelf for years because of its dull academic trade dress. When I finally took it down last month I was first pleasantly surprised, then fascinated, and then sad to come to the end. The book is made up of three to four page sections dedicated to the history of a particular commodity or trade route. I think the book originated as separate articles in a trade publication, but it's actually a good way to address the topic. Themes of exploitation and the importance of culture are present throughout, but each topic is deserving of distinct treatment. The book is easy to read, full of information I was not aware of, and provides a valuable perspective on the formation of the world we all live in. One of the best books I have read so far this year.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Colin MacDonald

    Really interesting, but kinda hard to digest. It's a collection of short essays, grouped loosely by topic. Each one is quick overview of a topic, so the whole is very high-density. It covers many aspects of global trade and events over a 500-year span, and without a strong organizing structure it's hard to fit it all together. Lots of good insights, anecdotes, and historical tidbits. Definitely a good starting point if you're browsing for topics to explore in depth. I'll probably keep coming bac Really interesting, but kinda hard to digest. It's a collection of short essays, grouped loosely by topic. Each one is quick overview of a topic, so the whole is very high-density. It covers many aspects of global trade and events over a 500-year span, and without a strong organizing structure it's hard to fit it all together. Lots of good insights, anecdotes, and historical tidbits. Definitely a good starting point if you're browsing for topics to explore in depth. I'll probably keep coming back to this for reference and leads.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Hakimi

    I guess this is what happens when you try to stuff 600+ years of history into a 300-page book: It becomes a string of irrelevant and incoherent details with minimal commentary. For a 300-page book, the author should've focused on big ideas, as opposed to a bunch of small, un-insightful ideas in two-age chapters. The opening paragraph to each chapter was corny. The puns at first were cute but then it got to the point where it was unprofessional. Another thing, the author probably used the word 'u I guess this is what happens when you try to stuff 600+ years of history into a 300-page book: It becomes a string of irrelevant and incoherent details with minimal commentary. For a 300-page book, the author should've focused on big ideas, as opposed to a bunch of small, un-insightful ideas in two-age chapters. The opening paragraph to each chapter was corny. The puns at first were cute but then it got to the point where it was unprofessional. Another thing, the author probably used the word 'unprecedented' at least fifteen times. Open up a thesaurus.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine Herbon

    This book is a little treasure hidden under a pile of economy history! Originally a series of essays written for a magazine on world history, Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik, along with their other contributors, have taken a dry subject and made it interesting and accessible for the average reader. You can learn all about interesting characters, from the familiar (Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus) to the only-slightly-less-famous (Stamford Raffles, John Sutter, and Claus Spreckles). The cha This book is a little treasure hidden under a pile of economy history! Originally a series of essays written for a magazine on world history, Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topik, along with their other contributors, have taken a dry subject and made it interesting and accessible for the average reader. You can learn all about interesting characters, from the familiar (Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus) to the only-slightly-less-famous (Stamford Raffles, John Sutter, and Claus Spreckles). The chapter on "drugs" will interest anyone ever craving a cup of coffee with a spoonful of sugar.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Georgene

    This book covers the events that lead to the discovery of the Americas and the impact this had on the economies of the entire world. A sweeping statement, but accurate. I had no idea of what events lead Europeans to sail off into unknown seas in the hopes of reaching the Far East. Based on a multitude of magazine articles, this book explores the events preceding the discovery of the New World and how that impacted and changed how the world was. Very interesting read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Lawrence

    This is the type of book that I wish would just keep going and going -- I wish Pomeranz and Topik had a blog and could sustain looking at commodities and their relationship to social/political/cultural history. These little essays make history and economics enjoyable for the common reader without sacrificing any historiographical rigor. A book I'm always pushing on people, especially social studies teacher friends! This is the type of book that I wish would just keep going and going -- I wish Pomeranz and Topik had a blog and could sustain looking at commodities and their relationship to social/political/cultural history. These little essays make history and economics enjoyable for the common reader without sacrificing any historiographical rigor. A book I'm always pushing on people, especially social studies teacher friends!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Two-fisted History

    The best thing I can say about this book was that there were some interesting stories about the development of trade the use of goods we still use today. In the end the author's rampant revisionist tendencies and blatant anti-Western bias proved too much for me and left a decidedly sour taste. I feel that this is the least accurate historical 'non-fiction' book that I have read. It was the first book I ever wrote in, and it was solely to express my distaste with the author. The best thing I can say about this book was that there were some interesting stories about the development of trade the use of goods we still use today. In the end the author's rampant revisionist tendencies and blatant anti-Western bias proved too much for me and left a decidedly sour taste. I feel that this is the least accurate historical 'non-fiction' book that I have read. It was the first book I ever wrote in, and it was solely to express my distaste with the author.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    The cultural and societal aspects are what drew me to this book, being ever curious of how past lives have been lived. It's dense, to be sure, I struggled to be caught by the intro all the way to the first essay, but once getting into the laborious flow of the writing it was definitely rewarding. A book I would call an essential intro for dipping your toes into the waters of trade history linked to societal evolutions. The cultural and societal aspects are what drew me to this book, being ever curious of how past lives have been lived. It's dense, to be sure, I struggled to be caught by the intro all the way to the first essay, but once getting into the laborious flow of the writing it was definitely rewarding. A book I would call an essential intro for dipping your toes into the waters of trade history linked to societal evolutions.

  21. 4 out of 5

    T.J.

    A bit dry and slightly academic, this will have enough information for the new grad student or the occasional history buff. The telling of world history on an economic level without sticking straight to orderly chronology may be distressing for some, but it's a pretty decent, strong analysis. A bit soporific in the middle, but otherwise a great read on world history. A bit dry and slightly academic, this will have enough information for the new grad student or the occasional history buff. The telling of world history on an economic level without sticking straight to orderly chronology may be distressing for some, but it's a pretty decent, strong analysis. A bit soporific in the middle, but otherwise a great read on world history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sovatha

    Very insightful book to read on how the global trade has affected the world as it is today. By insightful, I mean how some small trivial phenomena happening somewhere in the world that you had never heard of could change something that forever affects how things work at the global scale. If you want to read about economics but don't like number, this is a good book for you. Very insightful book to read on how the global trade has affected the world as it is today. By insightful, I mean how some small trivial phenomena happening somewhere in the world that you had never heard of could change something that forever affects how things work at the global scale. If you want to read about economics but don't like number, this is a good book for you.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Sweeney

    The book had some interesting historical stories involving the development of trade and common goods we still use today (the history of coffee and chocolate was fascinating). Overall, however, the author's rabid revisionism towards history and blatant anti-Western bias made the work difficult to muddle through. The book had some interesting historical stories involving the development of trade and common goods we still use today (the history of coffee and chocolate was fascinating). Overall, however, the author's rabid revisionism towards history and blatant anti-Western bias made the work difficult to muddle through.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David R.

    Quite possibly the worst book I read in the last five years. The author is plainly bitter about the way our economic history turned out and manufactures one venomous screed after another. I didn't even bother with the last 25% of the book. Quite possibly the worst book I read in the last five years. The author is plainly bitter about the way our economic history turned out and manufactures one venomous screed after another. I didn't even bother with the last 25% of the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Penny Jenkins

    this book was said to be hard to understand by my 15 year old and along with some of her friends. They now need to write a review on the book about the society, culture and the economy. Can we get some help for you out there? Please

  26. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Moore

    Intersting histroy of trade told in easy to digest vignettes. Isn't as deep as it might be and some of the vignettes are too short to give you much besides a word picture, but still an informative read if you are interested in the formation of the modern world economy. Intersting histroy of trade told in easy to digest vignettes. Isn't as deep as it might be and some of the vignettes are too short to give you much besides a word picture, but still an informative read if you are interested in the formation of the modern world economy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Larspeart

    Perhaps my favorite book of Economic history, delightfully given to me by a former colleague. Told in a series of short essays, this book wonderfully explains human nature through the lens of, well- humans.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    a good book discussing how the trades of beer, coffee, chocolate, tobacco, and other such things created the world we live in today

  29. 4 out of 5

    Renee Blackmon

    Pick a commodity from chocolate to cocaine. Nicely organized for reading what interests the reader most.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessy

    Awfully dry and dull but I guess I did learn a bit from it. Maybe I would have liked it more had it been voluntary reading and not required to squeeze out an essay from .__.

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