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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why didn't they teach us this at University?, 15 Jan. 2012
This review is from: A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World (Paperback)
The best economics book I read last year:

What did I learn ?

- He takes a very long term (centuries) view: Something lacking in most media in today's age.

- In early history, the first economies were in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and later Greek (cities, not the country) in the West - while throughout history China was a hugely important and developed economy and society. Britain was a complete backwater in economic terms until the 17th century - the main thing we had of use to others was tin (in Devon and Cornwall) - used (with copper) for making bronze.

- Arabs played a huge role in playing middle-men in trade exchanges (especially between Italian city-states such as Genoa and Venice) and the East (China).

- Indonesia's spice islands were a huge draw (for nutmeg) in early years of trade - it was only much much later that commodities such as cinnamon and then sugar and tea fuelled Empire building.

- A few key geographical points crop up again and again throughout history: the Malacca straits; the straits of Hormuz (entrance to Arabian gulf), Bab-el-Mandeb (entrance to Red Sea), straits of Gibraltar (entrance to Mediterranean) - no coincidence that early Brits knew the significance of these choke points with settlements/influence in Malaya/Singapore, Oman, Aden, and Gibraltar.

- Shipping remains by far the most cost/energy/fuel efficient mode of transport - has done throughout history, and always will be (basic physics). 150 years ago, it cost more to get things a few miles inland to the port of New York, than it cost to bring it from New York to Liverpool by boat. Being an island with navigable waterways (like the UK) was a great cost advantage. 80% of world's trade (by volume) still goes by sea.

Bernstein does an excellent job of explaining the economics lying behind much of world political history, colonization, wars, and protectionism versus free trade. He reaches far back into history - but manages to give lessons very relevant today. Certainly more illuminating than a semesters worth of university lectures in my opinion !
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Apr 2012 22:46:53 BDT
Rob Julian says:
John Maynard Keynes made a very interesting radio broadcast on the subject of free trade and protectionism called; "Pros and Cons of Tariffs". Back then tariffs were a big issue, and what Keynes had to say was characteristically insightful. If you are interested in reading most of this 1932 BBC broadcast, (approx 1000 words) please follow this link and find it written in my Amazon book review.Competition Friendly Protectionism - How a Certain Kind of Protectionism Could Temper and Improve Globalisation
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