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A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by [Bernstein, William L]
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A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World Kindle Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Review

A highly entertaining read. Bernstein's enthusiasm for his subject and impressive organisation of a wealth of material enable him to plot with pace and verve a largely chronological account of man's trading history. -- Financial Times

A timely and readable reminder that the desire to trade is not only one of the oldest human instincts but also the cause of many of the most important developments in our shared history. -- The Economist

Review

A highly entertaining read. Bernstein's enthusiasm for his subject and impressive organisation of a wealth of material enable him to plot with pace and verve a largely chronological account of man's trading history.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6290 KB
  • Print Length: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AD5GBZK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #68,131 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a fine primer in trade and the ideas of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and more recent economists, such as Paul Samuelson.

The entertaining and lively writing style of the author should not obscure the underlying strength of the book which rests on its analytical rigour and the way in which the author weaves in the theoretical and the practical.

The book is a timely reminder of the benefits accrued by trade in an era in which globalisation gets a bad press. People tend to focus on the undesirable effects such as the threat to the environment by the phenomenal growth of Chinese manufacturing exports, the outsourcing by corporations and the re-emergence of inflation as oil and food prices soar. At the same time they underplay the benefits such as the boost to Western living standards from inexpensive Chinese goods and the lifting of literally hundreds of millions of Asians above poverty level.

We follow the author as he unfolds his story to show how trade evolved and shaped the world. The story begins with Sumerian farmers in the third millenium BC who bartered grain surpluses generated in the Mesopotamian fertile crescent for copper obtained from Sinai several hundred miles to the West to make weapons to repel nomadic raiders.

The author discusses the Peloponessian war between Athens and Sparta to highlight the wider point about the importance and vulnerability of sea-lanes.

The story continues with the rise and fall of Venice and Genoa, the devastation caused by the Black Death, the Portuguese-led age of discovery, the establishment of the Dutch and British East India trading companies, the golden period of the late 19th century in which trade flourished under the British empire and the 20th century's descent into protectionism.
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Format: Hardcover
This is, quite simply, a superb book, combining the virtues of Findlay and O'Rourke's Power And Plenty (my top book of 2008) and Landes's Prometheus Unbound, and better in many ways than Ferguson's The Ascent Of Money and Maddison's Contours Of The World Economy, and unlike the latter manages to steer clear of significant errors (on p155 he puts Aceh in India, not Indonesia, and on p216 he manages to render "Cyprus" as "Cypress").

Its subject matter crisscrosses all of the aforementioned works, with some pretty well inevitable overlap, even down to a quote from Jan Pieterzoon Coen - "We cannot carry on trade without war, nor war with out trade" - also used by Findlay and O'Rourke. But whilst Bernstein cannot avoid the viability of the central thesis of Power And Plenty - that trade and might are irrevocably conjoined - the emphasis is less on the martial than on the ineluctable urge, in Bernstein's thesis, of human beings to treat with each other in the exchange of goods or their proxy, money.

Reaching back initially to the fourth millennium BCE, Bernstein's story strictly speaking begins around 2500 BCE with the first known use of silver as a means of exchange in Sumeria (see also Ferguson's book and Cynthia Stokes Brown's Big History) and traces the history of Trade thenceforward through numerous nations and empires.

En route he throws in some enlightening asides. He speculates that the tendency of the channel between the Great Bitter Lake and the Gulf of Suez to occasionally dry up was the origin of the story of the Israelites' escape across the Red Sea. He tells us that Aden's name derives from the Arabic for Eden. And he reveals that, like the Christians, the Muslims were not above adopting existing traditions, such as the hajj.
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Format: Hardcover
The appeal of this comprehensive history of world trade is rooted in its valuable information, thoughtful insights and brilliant writing. But, you'll also be delighted with the fascinating, little-known details that financial theorist William J. Bernstein throws in along the way. For example, did you know that the Boston Tea Party, the legendary event that helped launch the American Revolution, was not a selfless act of patriotism, but a venal stunt by greedy smugglers and merchants that actually cost the colonists a lot of money? How about the fact that an Ethiopian herder may have discovered coffee in A.D. 700 when he noticed that his goats and camels bounced merrily around all night after chewing on the red berries of an unknown shrub? Or that the early Chinese sometimes adulterated their precious tea exports with sawdust? Bernstein fills his book with such beguiling minutiae, but primarily he presents a knowing, comprehensive, discerning report on world trade from its prehistoric beginnings to the present. getAbstract predicts that Bernstein's saga will engage you from the first page to the last, and from sea to shining sea.
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Format: Hardcover
In addition to the wide range covered by this book, as reviewed clearly elsewhere, I found that it gives a new perspective of world history and how considerations of trade affected historical events to an extent that I had not realized. I have learnt a great deal from this clearly written account that I have greatly enjoyed reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book the author tells the story of the world through trade from Sumer to our days. You learn something new in every chapter and what's more important it's now just a collection of facts or stories. By the end you have a framework to think about the world history so that you can even explain events outside the book.

The highlights are: the role of Islam in trade and growth, the role of diseases, the role of particular spices, the real story behind the War for Independence and so on.

The only problem with the book is that it spends a bit too much time talking about ancient history and virtually zero time on the 20th century. I assume this is done because recent history is less ambiguous but it would still be nice to read.
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