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Ever since the seminal eponymous work by Adam Smith, the wealth of nations has been one of the most intriguing topics of intellectual curiosity and research in both the economics and history. For the most of human history the relative wealth of individuals around the world did not vary much. Poor peasants in the Roman empire had just about enough resources to satisfy their most basic needs, and the same can be said about the, say, Australian aborigines at the same point in time. All of this started to change rater dramatically around the year 1500 AD. At around that time Europe started to diverge from the rest of the world, and this trend has continued to this day. Some parts of the world that were under the European influence managed to keep the pace with Europe, but many had settled into the slower developmental progress. Why was Europe in particular able to advance so rapidly, and what has happened in the other parts of the world, are some of the questions that "Global Economic History - A Very Short Introduction" tries to answer.

If you have never thought about the abovementioned questions, then the material that is presented in this short book can be revelatory. For such a small resource this book contains a remarkable collection of charts, graphs, and other data that can shed a lot of light on the way that wealth and prosperity can be defined through history. Robert Allen bases his analysis on this wealth of data and offers his insights into their meaning in the context of economic development. Economics is notorious for the variety of often opposing views that are invoked to elucidate the real-world phenomena, and it's virtually certain that this short introduction will have its own share of detractors on at least some issues. (For instance, I question the spread of universal elementary education as a cause -rather than the consequence - of economic development.) Nonetheless, Allen presents his points from a very economically sound perspective, and all of the points in this book are well worth paying heed to. The book offers a lot of credibility to the "usual suspects" of the economic development - geography, natural resources, industrialization, functioning institutions, etc. - but it also challenges many widespread assumptions about them, and gives credence to a few others.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is its breadth; it is not just a book based on a few case studies, but an attempt to give a convincing account of the economic development in the entire world over the past half a millennium. In my estimation, given the constraints of the very short introduction format, it manages this aim remarkably well. The book is an invaluable and sober introductory resource that provides a lot of insight into the economic development of nations, and manages to accomplish this without resorting to cheap overarching ideological crutches. It is well worth reading for anyone with even a passing interest in these topics.
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on 25 June 2013
Clearly, it is no mean feat to simplify a huge topic such as this into a concise and easy to read book. For background, its perfect. The book suggests a few common denominators to kick-start an economy, such as: transport infrastructure, cheap production costs (especially wage prices) proximity to markets, etc., where the same format is used throughout to analyse the rise of regions in the global economy.

This book does it's job well. However, the author provides no personality or humour to a fairly dry topic. Once one gets the rhythm of the way it was researched, it does become a little predictable. It is a very short history and if its background you need, this is where you will find it. I would recommend others to read it.
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on 29 July 2013
The book focuses mainly on the Great Divergence - the rapid economic growth in the West and the slow one in the Rest since the 1500s to the present day. Different causes and explanations for the phenomenon have been briefly discussed; however, Pr. Robert Allen favors a certain approach while he's critical of other ones. Nevertheless he does not detour from scholarly impartiality in his judgments, and his insights are quite sound. The breadth of material covered in this little book is rather fascinating. Not only is it a good introduction to the subject, it can establish a very firm ground for one's further research.
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on 25 October 2013
I bought this for my History of the British and Global Economy course at uni, and it does explain points very well, with some very useful data. The book arrived quickly and in perfect condition.
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on 9 July 2015
Having little prior knowledge of the subject, I strongly recomend the book because it does give a detailed and easily understandable introducton. It tells the story up to 1950s perfectly, although the author failed to give an account of post-Second World War macroeconomics in terms of Keyneism, Neoliberalism, GFC, etc.. Nevertheless, I think that he said at some point that he is not going to talka about macroeconomic history. However, this should not be accepted as a good appology, given the intensity of world economy after the Second World War.
The chapter on Africa is truly enlightening and should be paid attention. The wide range of graphs was also extremely helpful. As a whole, the book does provide a perfect VSI up to 1950s, albeit occasionally the author touched on some controversial topics subjectively such as his paragaph on Max Weber.
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on 13 April 2013
If you are an economist, interested in history and how economics can influence historical development, this is the book for you.
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on 27 September 2014
Interesting introduction to global economics, highly recommended to anyone who wants an insight into how we got to where we are now in economic terms.
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on 9 November 2014
A fast romp through the first two industrial revolutions, concisely written overview of comparative world developments during those periods.
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on 30 November 2013
This is a really good book with a concise and clear explanation of the economic history of the last 500 years
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on 27 December 2015
Perfect book , love this serie as they are amazingly written and full of knowledge .
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