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The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) [Kindle Edition]

Kenneth Pomeranz
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Great Divergence brings new insight to one of the classic questions of history: Why did sustained industrial growth begin in Northwest Europe, despite surprising similarities between advanced areas of Europe and East Asia? As Ken Pomeranz shows, as recently as 1750, parallels between these two parts of the world were very high in life expectancy, consumption, product and factor markets, and the strategies of households. Perhaps most surprisingly, Pomeranz demonstrates that the Chinese and Japanese cores were no worse off ecologically than Western Europe. Core areas throughout the eighteenth-century Old World faced comparable local shortages of land-intensive products, shortages that were only partly resolved by trade.

Pomeranz argues that Europe's nineteenth-century divergence from the Old World owes much to the fortunate location of coal, which substituted for timber. This made Europe's failure to use its land intensively much less of a problem, while allowing growth in energy-intensive industries. Another crucial difference that he notes has to do with trade. Fortuitous global conjunctures made the Americas a greater source of needed primary products for Europe than any Asian periphery. This allowed Northwest Europe to grow dramatically in population, specialize further in manufactures, and remove labor from the land, using increased imports rather than maximizing yields. Together, coal and the New World allowed Europe to grow along resource-intensive, labor-saving paths.

Meanwhile, Asia hit a cul-de-sac. Although the East Asian hinterlands boomed after 1750, both in population and in manufacturing, this growth prevented these peripheral regions from exporting vital resources to the cloth-producing Yangzi Delta. As a result, growth in the core of East Asia's economy essentially stopped, and what growth did exist was forced along labor-intensive, resource-saving paths--paths Europe could have been forced down, too, had it not been for favorable resource stocks from underground and overseas.

Product Description


Winner of the 2000 John K. Fairbank Prize, American Historical Association
Co-Winner of the 2001 Book Prize, World History Association
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2000

"The vast international disparity in incomes and standards of living between Western Europe and its offshoots on the one hand, and most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America on the other, is a striking feature of the modern world. Pomeranz's study is an important addition to the literature that challenges elements of every major interpretation of the European take-off."--Choice

"A profoundly though-provoking book which will change the terms of the debate about the origins of capitalism, the rise of the West and the fall of the East."--Jack Goody, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This book makes, bar none, the biggest and most important contribution to our new understanding of the causes and mechanisms that brought about the great divergence' between the West and the rest of China in particular. . . . An entirely new and refreshing departure. Although he makes new comparisons between Europe, China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, Pomeranz also connects all these and more in a bold new sweep that should immediately make all previous and most contemporary related work obsolescent."--Andre Gunde Frank, Journal of Asian Studies

"This book is very important and will have to be taken seriously by anyone who thinks that explaining the Industrial Revolution . . . is crucial to our understanding of the modern world. . . . [A] book so rich that fresh insights emerge from virtually every page."--Robert B. Marks, American Historical Review

Exhaustively researched and brilliantly argued. . . . Suffice it to say that The Great Divergence is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated and significant pieces of cliometric scholarship to be published of late, especially in the field of world history."--Edward R. Slack, Jr., Journal of World History

Jack Goody, Times Higher Education Supplement

A profoundly though-provoking book which will change the terms of the debate about the origins of capitalism. . .

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 850 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised edition (1 July 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0093HEKLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #283,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why did it not start in China? 4 Aug. 2011
By docread
The debate continues unabated, among social scientists and historians,about the reasons for the unique emergence of Industrialization and sustained economic growth in Northwest Europe at the end of the 18th C and early 19th C.
Scholars have searched for the exceptional homegrown ingredients that stimulated the European economic take off and resulted in the great divergence from the historically advanced societies of Asia.Some have emphasised the unique advantageous material and ecological circumstances, others have focused on the institutional or scientific structures and others still on the specific favourable economical factors in particular the capital accumulation , either internally generated or externally through colonial extraction.Most of these accounts are deterministic stressing the historical inevitability of the process.They also share a Eurocentric narrow vantage point.

Pomeranz a historian and sinologist,has pored over extensive recently accumulated historical data about China and Japan , to bring a refreshing approach to the problem.He proposes a regional comparison between the advanced core areas in Europe and Asia.Surprising similarities are borne out for instance between England and the Yangzi delta, well up to the mid 18th C in consumption, productivity, markets,ecology, average incomes and even life expectancy.To explain the historical breakthrough,the author turns his attention to the contingent factors particularly the fortunate location of accessible coal deposits in Western Europe.Coal a fossil fuel ,replaced the shrinking supply of fuel wood as more forests disappeared and became the fundamental driver of the British industrial growth.Pomeranz dismisses all other explanations as being non essential or inadequate e.g.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable yet overambitious 10 Mar. 2014
By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Great Divergence contains two arguments in one book: first, that at the end of the eighteenth century, parts of China and East Asia were economically as advanced as Britain and therefore as likely to enjoy an industrial revolution, and second, that what caused Europe to diverge and break through was access to land and natural resources from America. The first argument, largely descriptive, is the more interesting: it depicts a very different China and Japan from the prevailing stereotypes of backward Oriental nations. In terms of life expectancy, access to consumer goods, or infrastructure, much of eighteen-century Asia seems to have had nothing to envy Europe. This is a surprising, intriguing observation, and on its own it makes the book worth reading.

The second argument is more problematic. Few non-specialist readers probably realise how much of the industrial revolution remains unwritten, uncertain, or plain unknown. Even for Britain, the most advanced and for obvious reasons the most important country, the eighteenth-century demographics were only established based on the work of the Cambridge Group of historians a mere twenty-five years ago. Nick Craft managed to establish ballpark growth numbers for the key period that was 1770 to 1820 only recently, and these remain subject to many caveats… Pomeranz bases his analysis on secondary sources. The problem is that many of these are dated, speculative, or outright dubious. Some of his data goes as far back as Fernand Braudel. On the British agricultural revolution, his basis is the discredited Allen: Overton has showed that, contrary to what Pomeranz writes, British agricultural productivity continued to rise very sharply in the 1700-1850 period.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long read for academics.... 7 Aug. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This very interesting book has a few hundred pages to much.... It takes perseverance tot read the whole book, but it is worth a try! Nevertheless a journalist should write in a more compelling way to the reader. Try for yourself.
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