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The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History Paperback – 16 Sep 1976

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (16 Sept. 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521290996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521290999
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 449,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Book Description

First published in 1973, this is a radical interpretation, offering a unified explanation for the growth of Western Europe between 900 A. D. and 1700, providing a general theoretical framework for institutional change geared to the general reader.

From the Back Cover

In some respects this is intended to be a revolutionary book, but in other respects it is very traditional indeed. It is revolutionary in that we have developed a comprehensive analytical framework to examine and explain the rise of the Western world; a framework consistent with and complementary to standard neo-classical economic theory. Since the book is written to be understandable (and hopefully interesting) for those without prior economic training, we have avoided the jargon of the profession and attempted to be as clear and as straightforward as possible.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read this excellent book in preparation for the writing of my senior thesis. It is the most thorough and comprehensive tretment of the economic reasons for the rise of the western world. Every sentence is information dense, and I often found it necessary to reread sentences or even whole paragraphs to digest the wealth of information and analysis. That said, it should be kept in mind that firm backgrounds in both European history and economics are necessary prerequisites for a full appreciation of this book. Moreover, this book is a crucial but nevertheless incomplete explanation for the rise of the western world. In this sense, it has everything on something (economic history), but nothing on anything else. For a broader analysis, see McNeill, "The Rise of the West." (McNeill has something on everything, but everything on nothing. Get it?)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars very valuable for understanding the world 5 July 2016
By Jon T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very, very good look at history through the lens of an economist who deserved his Nobel prize. Clearly written, simple and direct, this short book will go a long way to showing an engaged reader why growth exploded when and where it did.
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, and more-so the 2nd time you read it ... 23 Aug. 2014
By Ian Stones - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Profound, and more-so the 2nd time you read it. Considering it was one of the early works on Institutional Economic published in 1976 and the concepts have been developed continuously since then, incorporating cognitive sciences and anthropology, it is still a classic which challenges much conventional wisdom about "killer apps" that give countries competitive advantages.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 23 Oct. 2014
By Andrés Méndez Ruiz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read!
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad 5 Feb. 2008
By Joseph Fung - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some great insights into the origins of property rights and how they relate to today's world. Well written, but tedious at times.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less Than Advertised 4 Jan. 2008
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a classic statement of the economic "institutionalist" explanation for Western dominance of the world. The North/Thomas argument is essentially that Western Europe/North America developed a set of economically efficient institutions that promoted economic producitivity growth, institutional innovation, and technological innovation. These institutions are free markets and specific forms of property rights, legal and political systems that favor market stability and security of property, and government fiscal policies that provide government with enough resources to protect market stability and property rights. Government fiscal and political policies cannot, however, undermine market forces and property rights.

North and Thomas present a concise but well done overview of European economic history from 900 - 1700 AD to support their hypothesis. The gist of their case is that a pair of nations that developed these institutions, Holland and England, developed productive and expanding economies. Those nations that did not; France, Spain, etc., either stagnated or actually declined. The development of these institutions is shown to be a contingent and essentially fortunate process. Up to this point, I think that North and Thomas make a very good case, though there may be other crucial strictly non-economic factors. Holland and England were both, for example, relatively tolerant Protestant countries.

Does this argument, however, explain The Rise of the Western World of their title? Probably not. North and Thomas have made a good argument to explain how Holland and England developed more dynamic economies than their European competitors. But does this explain the subsequent Industrial Revolution that really made possible the Western conquest of the globe? The North and Thomas story terminates at 1700, before the Industrial Revolution. Its a reasonable hypothesis that the same institutions that drove economic success in Holland and Britain contributed to the Industrial Revolution, but the most you can argue on the basis of the North/Thomas thesis is that these institutions were necessary for industrialization. They present no arguments to prove that these institutions were both necessary and sufficient to drive the Industrial Revolution.

Substantial recent scholarship like Pomeranz's The Great Divergence has argued that 18th century Qing China and 18th century Europe were economically much more similar than believed previously. Yet, the Industrial Revolution arose in Europe, not in China. To date, no one has provided a convincing explanation.
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