- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 April 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0349111669
- ISBN-13: 978-0349111667
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4.6 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 209,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Wealth And Poverty Of Nations Paperback – 1 Apr 1999
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Professor David S. Landes takes an historic approach to the analysis of the distribution of wealth in this landmark study of world economics. Landes argues that the key to today's disparity between the rich and poor nations of the world stems directly from the Industrial Revolution, in which some countries made the leap to industrialisation and became fabulously rich, while other countries failed to adapt and remained poor. Why some countries were able to industrialise and others weren't has been the subject of much heated debate over the decades; climate, natural resources and geography have all been put forward as explanations--and are all brushed aside by Landes in favour of his own controversial theory: that the ability to effect an industrial revolution is dependent on certain cultural traits, without which industrialisation is impossible to sustain. Landes contrasts the characteristics of successfully industrialised nations-- work, thrift, honesty, patience and tenacity--with those of non-industrial countries, arguing that until these values are internalised by all nations, the gulf between the rich and the poor will continue to grow. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A masterpiece (Norman Stone)
One of the most important works of history to appear in my lifetime (A N Wilson)
For once, amazingly, a book lives up to the hype ... a blast of fresh air, a work of militant good sense (EVENING STANDARD)
Gripping ... well worth reading (OBSERVER)
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Top Customer Reviews
Landes further contrasts Northwestern (Protestant) Europe with Southern (Catholic) Europe. According to Landes, the discovery of the New World treasure--coupled with the Post-Tridentine Catholic Church's emphasis on simple peasant spirituality (none of all that schooling business) contrived to retard economic progress in Southern Europe and its offshoot civilisations in South America. While Spain and Portugal were busy looting the New World and praying for their souls, the Dutch and British were working hard to generate the wealth that kick-started and reinforced the Industrial Revolution. Landes also examined the rise of Japan (the best chapter of the book, in my opinion). He argues that Japan's openness to Western education, its ability to learn quickly and to mobilise popular feeling in the service of the national cause, put Japan on the road to industrialisation after the Meiji Restoration. So far so good.Read more ›
Another review stated wealth is not the (only) measure for success and dismisses the book for it. Landes agrees with wealth not being the sole purpose of a society, but tries in his book to make understandable just why there are differences in wealth; without judging wealth or the way it is gathered as either good or bad. That is a proper and scientific standpoint.
The book starts in prehistoric times and follows a chronological path of wealth building in various regions: Europe, US (limited), Japan, China, Middle East and Africa. Up to around 1700 his story is entertaining as well as easy to follow: the prescriptions and conditions for wealth are clear, easy to understand and still applicable today (to a certain extent).
From the industrial revolution onward, as societies grow more complex, also the book becomes more complex and the reasoning of Landes becomes harder to follow. The final chapters were for me very difficult to read through. I personally believe the complexity and intertwinedness of societies in the last century makes it increasingly hard to pinpoint what makes the difference between growth and stability.
Since the origins of wealth and of poverty should be described until recent times, also the last chapters are essential. Omitting them would be like stopping before the climax of a movie...Overall I rate this book highly, and would recommend everybody to read it, and take notes per chapter to see where and how the factors for growing wealth still apply.
Less satisfactory are a few side-swipes early on in the book at "geographical" explanations, where Landes rather lets himself down in his attempt to undermine them with the news that Harvard disbanded its geography school fifty years ago. This is no doubt true but irrelevant to the merit of the arguments. In the event, Landes need not be so sniffy, in that his arguments address the last 5-700 years, whereas the geographers (if I have properly understood the matter) look to the last 40,000. In effect, there is no contradiction, indeed a synthesis seems compelling. See "Guns, Germs and Steel", Jared Diamond, W W Norton, 1997.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing detail in every page answers many of the questions that have determined the way how the world has developed.Published 7 months ago by P. Mcgrath
Economic history of the world that explains why the industrial revolution started where it did and why countries are rich or poor. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Tommmy Elkins
This is an amazing book, particularly for anyone who's interested in the historical and geographical influences that led to the wealth and poverty of the countries.Published 15 months ago by Cindy Sim
This is a kind of economic world history, and the effort as such is remarkable. Therefore, I give it three stars. Read morePublished 16 months ago by The Prussian Reader
An excellent view through history of trading and the politics of nations. Small print and packs a lot in so not an overnight readPublished 22 months ago by Reviewer
Why are some nations so rich and some so poor? One usually hears a... wealth of common sense reasons which however are rather ...poor explanations! Read morePublished on 12 Oct. 2013 by Carno Polo
Landes is an experienced author, who has a realistic and holistic view on the wealth of nations in today's world.Published on 5 Nov. 2012 by Robin Cain
Adam Smith, a Scots Protestant from Kirkcaldy*, beat a German Jew, Karl Marx, in the world's heavyweight ideological championships. Read morePublished on 27 Aug. 2012 by John Fitzpatrick