- 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)
- See Complete Table of Contents
The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History Paperback – 16 Sep 1976
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
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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