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International trade has shaped the modern world, yet until now no single book has been available for both economists and general readers that traces the history of the international economy from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Power and Plenty fills this gap, providing the first full account of world trade and development over the course of the last millennium. International trade has shaped the modern world, yet until now no single book has been available for both economists and general readers that traces the history of the international economy from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Power and Plenty fills this gap, providing the first full account of world trade and development over the course of the last millennium. Ronald Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke examine the successive waves of globalization and deglobalization that have occurred during the past thousand years, looking closely at the technological and political causes behind these long-term trends. They show how the expansion and contraction of the world economy has been directly tied to the two-way interplay of trade and geopolitics, and how war and peace have been critical determinants of international trade over the very long run. The story they tell is sweeping in scope, one that links the emergence of the Western economies with economic and political developments throughout Eurasia centuries ago. Drawing extensively upon empirical evidence and informing their systematic analysis with insights from contemporary economic theory, Findlay and O'Rourke demonstrate the close interrelationships of trade and warfare, the mutual interdependence of the world's different regions, and the crucial role these factors have played in explaining modern economic growth. Power and Plenty is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the origins of today's international economy, the forces that continue to shape it, and the economic and political challenges confronting policymakers in the twenty-first century.


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International trade has shaped the modern world, yet until now no single book has been available for both economists and general readers that traces the history of the international economy from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Power and Plenty fills this gap, providing the first full account of world trade and development over the course of the last millennium. International trade has shaped the modern world, yet until now no single book has been available for both economists and general readers that traces the history of the international economy from its earliest beginnings to the present day. Power and Plenty fills this gap, providing the first full account of world trade and development over the course of the last millennium. Ronald Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke examine the successive waves of globalization and deglobalization that have occurred during the past thousand years, looking closely at the technological and political causes behind these long-term trends. They show how the expansion and contraction of the world economy has been directly tied to the two-way interplay of trade and geopolitics, and how war and peace have been critical determinants of international trade over the very long run. The story they tell is sweeping in scope, one that links the emergence of the Western economies with economic and political developments throughout Eurasia centuries ago. Drawing extensively upon empirical evidence and informing their systematic analysis with insights from contemporary economic theory, Findlay and O'Rourke demonstrate the close interrelationships of trade and warfare, the mutual interdependence of the world's different regions, and the crucial role these factors have played in explaining modern economic growth. Power and Plenty is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the origins of today's international economy, the forces that continue to shape it, and the economic and political challenges confronting policymakers in the twenty-first century.

30 review for Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    A real gem of a book. Power and Plenty is organised as a history, rather than on a thematic basis, despite the name. If there is one recurring theme it is that military and economic power go together -- but the authors argue this in a nuanced and non-obvious way, and do not bang on this theme incessantly, rather, it is simply a resonant truth that emerges time and again as they go through world economic history in a chronological and geographic order. The book separates the last millenium into c A real gem of a book. Power and Plenty is organised as a history, rather than on a thematic basis, despite the name. If there is one recurring theme it is that military and economic power go together -- but the authors argue this in a nuanced and non-obvious way, and do not bang on this theme incessantly, rather, it is simply a resonant truth that emerges time and again as they go through world economic history in a chronological and geographic order. The book separates the last millenium into chunks of time, describes the major developments of that time period, elucidates the questions that economists and historians have raised with respect to that period (such as, why Britain and why Europe, that led the Industrial Revolution, and not Asia), then walks through trade flows across different regions, answering the major questions posed along the way. In this sense it is not a Big History type of book, but more like an chronological encyclopedia. The first third reads more swiftly in terms of pages spent per century -- due to lack of data and scholarship -- but is really quite fascinating from the point of view of historical anecdote. The second third is weightier, with far more quotation of data and academic theory -- but for anyone with intermediate economics training this portion is actually fascinating: the authors reinstate my faith in orthodox economics in placing the theories in historical context and showing how they are adequate to explaining many historical questions behind, for e.g. the Industrial Revolution. In journalistic fashion, there is plenty of clever use of statistical data to back up arguments, and when combined with explanation of how the data is consistent with the predictions of a economic model, these make some of the best parts. Truly the book reads like a History -- I reiterate this because the tone is extremely balanced, the authors seem highly sensitive to ideology driven historical interpretation, including that of their home subject, economics; rather, they are interested in explaining events using, but not necessarily confined to, an economist's point-of-view, and indeed come up with conclusions that surprised me. I wish I'd read this as an undergrad, and it reinforces again how much I think the typical undergrad economics curriculum is lacking -- too much static theory, insufficient emphasis on contextualising the actual history in which these theories were born, and on tracing the evolution of economic thought over the last 2 centuries, from Adam Smith up to and including modern finance. I shall just summarise one portion that fascinated me: the question of why the Industrial Revolution in Britain enabled it to escape the Malthusian trap that constrained real GDP per capital growth. Prior to the IR, technological innovations led to a one-time burst in productivity and overall income, but then population growth meant that eventually, GDP per capita fell back to original levels. What really marked out the IR was the sustained growth in GDP per capita for the entire 19th century and beyond. On p339, P&P lays out the authors' thoughts on why this was so -- and why international trade was critical to enabling this: First, trade meant that Britain could access large international markets, both to sell its hugely increased manufacturing output, as well as to purchase large amounts of raw materials -- without this elasticity of demand and supply due to world markets, the income accruing to technical innovation would have been much lower, and the cost of supplies much higher, preventing production and growth. The latter (elasticity of supply of raw materials) links to the humanitarian question of whether English prosperity was entirely off the backs of African slave labor -- the authors argue that it was the large amounts of (practically free) land in the Americas, worked by the large amounts of (practically free) labor from Africa, that supplied much of England's raw materials in the 19th century. This raises the question of whether, since the escape from Malthus in the 19thC was due to highly elastic supply of previously unutilised land and labor, whether the world has now fully exploited those supplies and will once more run into resource constraints. Anti-Malthusians tend to cite technical progress, but if I read the argument correctly, technical progress in human history prompted only one-off and cyclical improvements in GDP per capita, that were moderated thereafter by population growth. It was the large increase in accessible resources per capita that allowed for 19thC sustainable growth in GDP per capita. Will productivity gains in the 21stC be sufficient to sustain this? However, the resource constraints we are again running into are today balanced against moderating population growth due to falling birth rates and top heavy population pyramids -- the other half of developed country rises in GDP per capita, to which geographers have tended to pay more attention than economists. Still, given the population pressure in Asia, where growth is now expected to come from, and the already extensive environmental degradation here, I am skeptical that Malthus has been proven permanently wrong. A final note: I helped out on this book as a research assistant to Ronald Findlay, during my undergrad years at Columbia, so it is doubly fascinating for me to read this -- not because I contributed in any more than a trivial way (I helped him navigate the library system, basically), but because I can only now imagine how all this was running through his mind back then, and also because I can see his personality in the book. You wouldn't tell by his name but Findlay is actually from Burma, and the work shows great deal of racial sensitivity -- Power and Plenty gives plenty of credit to the Oriental Islamic and Chinese empires of the early 800-1200 AD period, for e.g. He also proves is sensitive to income inequality and migrant tensions; indeed, one excellent insight was the observation that globalisation prior to the 19th century involved trade of otherwise unavailable goods, while trade especially in the 21st century was of manufactured commodities that leads to tension from threatened producers/workers in the recipient country. Finally, on tone and aesthetics: He enjoys watching historical TV dramas, and that shows in the writing as well -- sensitive to the structural themes that drive history, but without denying the influence of heroic individuals.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    A history of the last 1000 years of trade Globalisation is not a modern phenomenon. Successive waves of globalisation and deglobalisation come and go, and have been here since time and memorial. In this book, the authors divide the world in 7 distinct world regions, based on social, cultural and political lines and different epochs in history.Trade has and will continue to shape the world. From the Silk Route to today's Pacific Rim, the processes have always been there. As the authors state, the b A history of the last 1000 years of trade Globalisation is not a modern phenomenon. Successive waves of globalisation and deglobalisation come and go, and have been here since time and memorial. In this book, the authors divide the world in 7 distinct world regions, based on social, cultural and political lines and different epochs in history.Trade has and will continue to shape the world. From the Silk Route to today's Pacific Rim, the processes have always been there. As the authors state, the book transcends the discussion of ’The West and the rest’ and provides and gives a good overview of the current academic viewpoints in the economic history debates.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Neal Montgomery

    A 1,000 year economic history of the world, focusing on the interplay of trade and war. This is a fascinating if sometimes dense read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Graves

    As good as Gold: The book was actually better than I expected. It advertised itself as a standard, relatively monotone and boring nonfiction work, but I decided to continue anyway as my brother highly recommended it. Not only were there incredibly detailed facts and descriptions of the world economy and political situations, but they had statistics and sources in the footnotes to back up their statements and claims. No claim made was without reason, and each reason had a well researched source, As good as Gold: The book was actually better than I expected. It advertised itself as a standard, relatively monotone and boring nonfiction work, but I decided to continue anyway as my brother highly recommended it. Not only were there incredibly detailed facts and descriptions of the world economy and political situations, but they had statistics and sources in the footnotes to back up their statements and claims. No claim made was without reason, and each reason had a well researched source, including primary and secondary sources. I personally thought the book was very interesting, as it described the political and economic situations of the second millennium world in great detail and with an interesting philosophical explanation for some of the reasoning for acts and decisions made by countries and important political figures at the time. I believe the facts definitely outweighed the propaganda, as the authors had no obvious reason to be biased in any way, and the book was definitely a more informative text rather than one which attempted to persuade the reader. Based on the extensive cited sources and research I believe the book was definitely based mostly, if not purely on fact. The information was definitely extensive, as the book is fairly lengthy, and the authors covered many topics throughout the book. Each chapter covered a new topic or time period, and as it progressively moved chronologically through history, one could observe how as time progressed, the developing philosophical and logical progressions made by humans seemed to play a role in the general thought and reasoning made by political leaders and the general populace. Like Water in a desert: I would describe the authors tone as informative, but also as critical, since he describes trade as the basis for international globalization, but also as a a primary reason for conflict and rivalries between nations to erupt. He describes some actions of past human actions in a negative way, such enslavement of humans as a result of the Atlantic system, and the eradication of many native american and mesoamerican cultures. Definitely anyone interested in History would find this book interesting, but also people interested in economics and politics would also find the information found here to be interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Robertus

    This is a survey of data using the year 1000 as a starting point and advancing through the history of trade relations between geographic regions. The scope and detail is appealing to a economist, certainly, and the analysis of wages and prices, trade volume, and comparative advantages, well supplemented by maps makes for a very engaging read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Diego

    Un libro impresionante de dos fantásticos economistas e historiadores, un viaje por los últimos 1000 años de desarrollo económico y la gradual integración de distintas regiones a la economía global con un uso magistral y simple al mismo tiempo de teoría económica, el modelo Hecksher-Ohlin básicamente, para explicar que sucedió. Los primeros 900 años del libro son magníficos pues logran ilustrar muy bien los mayores sucesos históricos y sus impacto económicos en el mundo. Por ejemplo, el trato qu Un libro impresionante de dos fantásticos economistas e historiadores, un viaje por los últimos 1000 años de desarrollo económico y la gradual integración de distintas regiones a la economía global con un uso magistral y simple al mismo tiempo de teoría económica, el modelo Hecksher-Ohlin básicamente, para explicar que sucedió. Los primeros 900 años del libro son magníficos pues logran ilustrar muy bien los mayores sucesos históricos y sus impacto económicos en el mundo. Por ejemplo, el trato que hacen de los efectos de la Pax Mongolica, de la integración gradual de la economía atlántica desde Colón y Magallanes hasta el siglo XIX. La parte que es algo decepcionante en el libro es lo que sucede los últimos 100 años del segundo milenio. Los eventos de la Primera Guerra Mundial no son tratados con suficiente profundidad y en general se les considera como una causa exógena de la desintegración de la "primera globalización" lo cual deja muy poco espacio para el análisis y simplifica demasiado. La gran depresión y la Segunda Guerra Mundial tienen un tratamiento muy breve que obvia algunas circunstancias importantes y más bien utiliza los argumentos de otros autores como Eichengreen, los cuales son correctos pero los toca muy brevemente. Otra omisión importante es lo poco que se habla de las trayectorias económicas de los países latinoamericanos y los conflictos que los retrasaron, en su lugar los autores hacen uso extensivo de los argumentos de Bulmer Thomas, Coatsworth y otros autores. No obstante estas fallas, al final es un libro de gran valor, es un libro que comienza con un mundo en que el mundo islámico pasaba su época dorada y Europa occidental en esencia era una periferia atrasada, describe como el mundo cambio Europa se volvió el centro del mundo hasta llegar a la gran divergencia y termina con un mundo donde Asia comienza a recuperar su rol hegemónico en la historia, lo que parece ser la gran convergencia. Al final son dos grandes lecciones las que ofrece el libro. La primera es que la integración económica del mundo es un proceso que lleva andando mucho tiempo y que no es la historia fácil y feliz que los modelos económicos asumen. Es una integración lograda con guerras, bloqueos, saqueos. Es una historia de como la política cuenta y las guerras cuentas y el poder militar y político se combinan para producir resultados económicos, sostener rutas comerciales, abrir mercados, monopolizar industrias y por estas mismas razones dicha integración necesita de la existencia de actores que estén dispuestos a usar su poder para mantenerla. La segunda que la globalización así como cualquier otro fenómeno económico o social siempre puede cambiar, si se ha desintegrado antes se puede desintegrar ahora, los cambios en la economía política en el mundo traen consigo cambios en la economía, no existe seguridad de que nada de lo que hoy damos por hecho continué.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Choo

    A comprehensive and robust boom Power and Plenty examines the economic history of the world from about 1000AD and onwards. He examines the developments in Eurasia and Europe and then the connection of the Americas with the rest of the world. Through the sweep of time, the theme that constantly recurs is that political power shapes economic relations. With this grand sweep, it does not aim to cover everything - this is a work of economic history, not socio-political commentary, so that will get le A comprehensive and robust boom Power and Plenty examines the economic history of the world from about 1000AD and onwards. He examines the developments in Eurasia and Europe and then the connection of the Americas with the rest of the world. Through the sweep of time, the theme that constantly recurs is that political power shapes economic relations. With this grand sweep, it does not aim to cover everything - this is a work of economic history, not socio-political commentary, so that will get left out. This is also not the book for recent economic developments, so those will not be looked at. But this is the book for the grand sweep of things, of the commodities and politics that drove global trade.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bob Duke

    Necessary reading in the age of Trump and Brexit With the world experiencing a backlash against globalization it is necessary to understand what exactly it is and how it came about. However it is very unlikely Brexiteers and Trumpies will read this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Fisher

    Statistics-heavy, but an excellent economic history. The narrative is well-written, and almost every reader should learn something new.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    Perfect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric Bottorff

    This is what top notch economic history looks like.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Will

    "[It] seemed by the end of the twentieth century as though the world might finally be heading toward a more balanced economic system, with more and more countries starting to converge on the world's technological frontier, and the 'Great Specialization' becoming a thing of the past, a temporary by-product of the disequilibrium created by the Industrial Revolution two hundred years previously. Looking ahead, therefore, it seems natural to suppose that more and more countries will experience the b "[It] seemed by the end of the twentieth century as though the world might finally be heading toward a more balanced economic system, with more and more countries starting to converge on the world's technological frontier, and the 'Great Specialization' becoming a thing of the past, a temporary by-product of the disequilibrium created by the Industrial Revolution two hundred years previously. Looking ahead, therefore, it seems natural to suppose that more and more countries will experience the benefits of industrialization and modern economic growth, and that trade flows will increasingly involve the mutual exchange of manufactured goods, with primary-product exports now reflecting particularly favorable resource endowments, rather than backward manufacturing sectors. The benevolent trends that we have just described are what would be predicted if the economic system is allowed to evolve smoothly in the future, but nothing is in fact less certain. If anything, history suggests that globalization is a fragile and easily reversible process, with implications not just for international trade, but for the international division of labor and economic growth as well. To contemporary observers, the late-nineteenth-century globalization [...] must have seemed the natural order of things, but the Great War showed how false such an assumption was. Not only was trade disrupted during the conflict itself, but the interwar era which followed saw a steady proliferation of tariff and nontariff barriers to trade in the richest countries of the world, and this was in turn followed by inward-looking antitrade policies in developing countries which lasted until the 1970s or 1980s. Even more worryingly from today's perspective, no one in 1913 saw these disasters coming."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rob Prince

    I know. It sounds boring. Maybe it is boring. But I don't think it's boring...a history of world trade. I'm about half way through it and find it as good an explanation of some of the trends of world history of these past 1000 or so years. I suppose it would be a kind of `backgrond' book - the kind you only read to get perspective after you've reached the age of 65. But I'm loving it. Besides, you can, if you like, read just a chapter of it - whatever chapter interests you. I'm reading right now I know. It sounds boring. Maybe it is boring. But I don't think it's boring...a history of world trade. I'm about half way through it and find it as good an explanation of some of the trends of world history of these past 1000 or so years. I suppose it would be a kind of `backgrond' book - the kind you only read to get perspective after you've reached the age of 65. But I'm loving it. Besides, you can, if you like, read just a chapter of it - whatever chapter interests you. I'm reading right now about how the British were pissed off that the little Dutch were making a fortune on world trade and somewhat blocking British growth in the early 1600s...so they (the Brits) went to war against the Dutch 3 times in that century to change the global chemistry. OK. I'll stop before you become even more bored.

  14. 5 out of 5

    E

    Intriguing survey of the history of tumultuous world trade Thinking of globalization as a new phenomenon or an inevitable one is all too easy. As scholars Ronald Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke explain in this thorough examination, globalization is neither new nor predictable. In fact, international trade has been a reality for more than 1,000 years and the story of global commerce is one of constant change. For centuries, nations have jockeyed for position, imposed rules and killed each other’s citiz Intriguing survey of the history of tumultuous world trade Thinking of globalization as a new phenomenon or an inevitable one is all too easy. As scholars Ronald Findlay and Kevin O’Rourke explain in this thorough examination, globalization is neither new nor predictable. In fact, international trade has been a reality for more than 1,000 years and the story of global commerce is one of constant change. For centuries, nations have jockeyed for position, imposed rules and killed each other’s citizens in the name of trade. This enlightening work rewards the reader with a depth of understanding and context. However, it would benefit from a more conversational, less academic tone. getAbstract recommends it to readers who want to see world economic affairs in a broader context and perspective.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    must read for anyone who is interested in how economic circumstances and mechanisms have shaped our history. centred around pax mongolia, industrial revolution and the black death as three major turning points in world history between 1000-2000. relatively concise given the scope of the book. not a "fluid" read in the sense that the authors back their claims up with data and theory, but considering that this is what they do, the argument still flows relatively well. still - the book is lengthy a must read for anyone who is interested in how economic circumstances and mechanisms have shaped our history. centred around pax mongolia, industrial revolution and the black death as three major turning points in world history between 1000-2000. relatively concise given the scope of the book. not a "fluid" read in the sense that the authors back their claims up with data and theory, but considering that this is what they do, the argument still flows relatively well. still - the book is lengthy and takes some time to finish. multiple reads might be recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS KOBOBOOKS

  17. 5 out of 5

    Iana

    If there you are looking for THE reference book on the history of world trade and on the interactions between trade, economics and geopolitices, don't look further, this the one. If there you are looking for THE reference book on the history of world trade and on the interactions between trade, economics and geopolitices, don't look further, this the one.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Gaiser

    Very detailed, very sophisticated book about the world economy in historical perspective. The authors mention various theories to each economic era. Sublime for academic use.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    rec by Patrick at Bob's promotion ceremony? rec by Patrick at Bob's promotion ceremony?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Drake

    Very detailed, and covered continents and centuries I had never seen covered in other works of economic history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    History of global trade during the 2nd millenium

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert Bailey/ Desiree

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Ferngrove

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mischa

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bruno Beauduin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Sandu

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  30. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

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