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God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World Hardcover – October 9, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Well-written and wide-ranging."
-Washington Post Book World
Best Nonfiction of 2008

“Persuasively optimistic . . . he knows more theology and church than do most public intellectuals, and more Anglo-American history than do many of the more theologically learned; this makes for an interesting combination.”
-American Heritage

“Entertaining . . .”
-The Economist

“Walter Mead’s new book is both delightful and outrageous: delightful in his mischievous, well-chosen use of poems, pamphlets, and political speeches to illustrate his arguments; and outrageous in the proper sense of the word–for it will outrage lots of readers: American know-nothings who assume life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only began in 1776; liberal Brits who will be furious at the idea that they are the true and only forebears of our neocons’ obsession with changing the world and making a profit from it; and foreigners everywhere, especially in French-speaking and Arabic-speaking countries, who will have their worst historical myth confirmed, that the Anglo-Saxons have been intent on dominating world affairs for at least the past four centuries and have no plans to give up the habit now.”
-Paul Kennedy

“Ingenious . . . Mead enlivens the text with numerous amusing and illustrative anecdotes, artful literary allusions and helpful invocations of great historians and philosophers. A remarkable piece of historical analysis bound to provoke discussion and argument in foreign-policy circles.”

“Walter Russell Mead has done it again. With his distinctive sweep and penetration, America's premier archeologist of ideas and their consequences unearths the cultural roots of large political movements and developments. Readers of this scintillating volume will see the modern world afresh.”
-George F. Will

"Walter Russell Mead has written yet another fascinating, thought-provoking book about America's global role. Mead weaves together history, theology, economics and politics to tell the story of the rise of the English speaking peoples and the world that they made. Churchill would have approved."
-Fareed Zakaria

“Well-written and very wide-ranging . . . God and Gold demands a serious rethinking of how we study and write modern history.”
-Washington Post

God and Gold is distinctive not just . . . because of its delightful wit, but also because it adds new depth to the familiar . . . Mead manages to be both trenchant and charming at the same time . . . brilliant.”
- Adam I. P. Smith, Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Walter Russell Mead is the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a regular book reviewer for Foreign Affairs, a member of the editorial board of The American Interest, and a founding board member of the New America Foundation. He has written frequently for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Esquire. His books include Special Providence, which won the Lionel Gelber Award (“the world’s most important prize for nonfiction” —The Economist) in 2002, and Power, Terror, Peace, and War. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
On first glance God and Gold might seem to be a typical triumphalist school of history production about the glorious rise of the Anglo-Americans and their victories over lesser peoples. However, the reader who takes a second look will recognize that Walter Russell Mead has created a wide-ranging and fascinating examination of world history over the last three hundred years or so that, while it does praise the strengths of the Anglophones or Wasps, is not blind to their short comings or to the achievements of other peoples.

I found this book fascinating on many levels. Its a superb work of history, making deft comparisons and drawing excellent and elaborate parallels. The analogies are clear and highly illuminating. Mead is thought provoking and astute in his assessments. I appreciated the attention paid to the role played by organized religions and the reassessment and validation of earlier historians' theses on Protestantism and Christianity. Most of all, I enjoyed the many literary references and analogies, particularly the Carrollian theme of the Walrus and the Carpenter that runs through the book.

Mead can be harsh in his criticisms, particularly of the foolish vainglory of the Bush Administration over the last few years, but overall the book is hopeful and optimistic in its assessment of the past and predictions for the future.
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Format: Hardcover
There are few works and fewer scholars who can skillfully bridge and interweave topics like history, economics, and foreign relations without any one of the three areas suffering. Mead is just such an author and this is just such a book.
Even more than his previous works, in this volume Mead manages to make linkages between these topics to present a remarkably fun, remarkably cohesive account of how Britain and later the United States, came to be the world's superpowers.

Beyond being a simply stellar set of ideas, it is simply one of the best written books of the year. It was the first time in a long time where I found myself simply unable to put a history book down until I finished it.
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Format: Hardcover
Mead is a master of making complex history of American thought accessible and lively. God & Gold is a fearless account that dares to examine how the English-speaking powers created the institutions we hold most dear--and how they have fought to defend them. It isn't politically correct; but it's brilliant. Mead's work is formidable, and has academic rigor; but this isn't some dense intellectual history. It is an accessible read, and one that makes the reader much, much smarter.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the other reviewers. This is an excellent history. I found particularly interesting the interplay of religion and politics that Mr. Mead describes.

Unfortunately, the book continues past that point, and Mr. Mead shares his views on how the current world could be made a better place. Mr. Mead's foreign policy recommendations cause the book to fall down, hard.

Who knew many of the world's ills could be cured merely by having Red-State Americans read Reinhold Neibuhr? Why haven't they already done so? After all, Mr. Neibuhr was a favorite of President Jimmy Carter, and we know how well his foreign policy efforts played out. This is one of the core recommendations Mr. Mead offers to resolve the world's ills.

If op-ed insights like this, and other thoughts first vetted around George Soros' dinner table (not a joke) are your cup of tea, then I highly recommend, in its entirety, this book to you.

Otherwise, the history portion is excellent and more than makes up for the latter part of the book, which, gratefully, is brief.

Mr. Mead should stick to his strengths: he's an excellent historian, and a fine writer.

I give it four stars. It would have been five, except for the end, which is dreadful. Then I take one away for the author's poor judgement in sullying a fine history with a sophmornic opinion editorial. Three stars.
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Format: Hardcover
[Note; this Review appeared on the Claremont Institute website, on July 17, 2008]

In his new book, God and Gold, foreign affairs expert Walter Russell Mead argues that modern world history can be understood as the global application of a system of economics, religion, and culture developed and directed by the English-speaking peoples. From the time of Oliver Cromwell to the present, the British and the Americans, either individually or together, have won every major war, and have established a commercial and military dominance that remains the foundation of the modern world. "It is perhaps bad manners to say so," Mead acknowledges, "but that does not make it less true."

Mead addresses six questions which he believes can help us better understand and handle the problems and dangers that confront America today:

(1) What exactly is the agenda of the Anglo-Americans?
(2) Why have they been so consistently successful in their military and economic conflicts with other nations?
(3) How did they manage to build a global order?
(4) Why have they so frequently believed that their successes were about to give rise to a world of peace and prosperity?
(5) Why have they been wrong every single time?
(6) What is the meaning, significance, and future, of Anglo-American power?

As Mead confronts these questions, we find that the strengths of his book include his authoritative mastery of historical, political, and economic facts, which he uses liberally to support his argument, and his ability to weave together cultural, religious, economic, and political strands of history into a fascinating, coherent synthesis.
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