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The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy. Revised Edition

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691090108
ISBN-10: 0691090106
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From Booklist

Pomeranz is a history professor at the University of California^-Irvine and the author of The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society, and Economy in Inland North China, 1853^-1937 (1993), an academic study that investigated the role of steam-powered transportation (among other developments) in the growth of China's Shantung Province. He is also the coauthor of the more popularly accessible The World That Trade Created (1999). Now he looks at the question of why sustained industrial growth began in northwestern Europe but not East Asia. To even ask the question can bring charges of Eurocentrism, but Pomeranz acknowledges the role of colonialism in Europe's growth. He emphasizes, though, Europe's access to America's resources as one of two contributing factors to industrial growth, the second being the widespread availability within Europe of coal as a fuel. After challenging the convention that Europe held an edge before 1800, he traces with scholarly diligence the diverging patterns of growth between Europe and China. David Rouse --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Winner of the 2000 John K. Fairbank Prize, American Historical Association

Co-Winner of the 2001 Book Prize, World History Association

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2000

"The vast international disparity in incomes and standards of living between Western Europe and its offshoots on the one hand, and most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America on the other, is a striking feature of the modern world. Pomeranz's study is an important addition to the literature that challenges elements of every major interpretation of the European take-off."--Choice

"A profoundly though-provoking book which will change the terms of the debate about the origins of capitalism, the rise of the West and the fall of the East."--Jack Goody, Times Higher Education Supplement

"This book makes, bar none, the biggest and most important contribution to our new understanding of the causes and mechanisms that brought about the great divergence' between the West and the rest of China in particular. . . . An entirely new and refreshing departure. Although he makes new comparisons between Europe, China, Japan, India, Southeast Asia, Pomeranz also connects all these and more in a bold new sweep that should immediately make all previous and most contemporary related work obsolescent."--Andre Gunde Frank, Journal of Asian Studies

"This book is very important and will have to be taken seriously by anyone who thinks that explaining the Industrial Revolution . . . is crucial to our understanding of the modern world. . . . [A] book so rich that fresh insights emerge from virtually every page."--Robert B. Marks, American Historical Review

Exhaustively researched and brilliantly argued. . . . Suffice it to say that The Great Divergence is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated and significant pieces of cliometric scholarship to be published of late, especially in the field of world history."--Edward R. Slack, Jr., Journal of World History

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Product Details

  • Series: The Princeton Economic History of the Western World
  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised edition (December 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691090106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691090108
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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144 of 153 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a provocative book in the best sense; it addresses an important subject, is well argued, is based on an excellent scholarship, and reaches conclusions that will stimulate a great deal of debate. Pomeranz seeks to explain how Western European Societies made the leap into industrialization and world domination. Pomeranz begins by rebutting prior explanations of European success. Most versions of these models, which were reasonable proposals given prior fragmentary knowledge of Asian history, are demographic or economic in nature. Europeans had lower birth-rates, Europeans were the first to develop free markets, consumption of key luxury goods was higher and primed the pump for international trade, Early Modern Europe underwent proto-industrialization as handicraft production for trade spread into the countryside, labor was freer in Europe. Pomeranz, an accomplished specialist on Chinese history, demonstrates that there was little difference in all these important variables between China, Japan, and Western Europe. Indeed, in some respects, 18th century China may have had freer labor and markets than 18th century Europe. Pomeranz takes particular pains to attack the triumphalist notion that "free markets" lead inexorably to modernization. For Pomeranz, European capitalism is a key to development of industrialization but only a very particular form of capitalism unique to Europe. This is the state sponsored or directed capitalism that drove overseas expansion. This peculiar form of capitalism, not the untrammeled free market, became the key to European imperialism and colonialism, and the development of key capitalist institutions such as joint stock companies.Read more ›
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98 of 108 people found the following review helpful By James B. Delong on March 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
China's Advocate: A Review of Ken Pomeranz's The GreatDivergence
The Great Divergence -------------------- Forsome time now it has been becoming clear that there is something wrong with the traditional story of the coming of the nineteenth-century European industrial revolution and the associated trans-oceanic European empires. The conventional wisdom sees Western European civilization's edge building gradually yet inexorably--with a pronounced setback during the Dark Ages--from the days when the conquests of Julius Caesar and Rome's Julian dynasty emperors brought the high civilization of the Greeks to Eboracum, Londinium, Lutetia, and Colonia Claudia. Western Europeans then build on top of Greek philosophy, Greek literature, Roman engineering, and Roman law. From Naples in the south to Stockholm in the north, from Vienna in the east to Sagres in the west, the tide builds to a flood: the rule of law, the consent of estates to taxation, rational thought, the replacement of magic by religion, security of private property, the horse collar, the scientific revolution, and war-driven technological advance gave--according to the conventional wisdom--European societies as of 1500 a substantial and decisive edge in technology and productivity. During the early modern period from 1500 to 1800 this decisive edge blossomed into the social, political and economic institutions of the modern age that created today's wealthy industrial democracies.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By ChairmanLuedtke on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Great Divergence is a multi-causal explanation for the economic rise of Western Europe. The book draws upon diverse existing accounts, including those that see the root causes within Europe itself, and those that see the causes as being related to overseas enterprises by the European powers. However, the book goes beyond these existing accounts by offering a synthetic, multi-stage story, showing how each factor mattered at a certain point in time, but was not alone sufficient to trigger the rise of the West. Thus, one comes away with a belief that the story of the West's ascendency cannot satisfactorily be told by Marx's focus on "primitive accumulation" in the New World, nor by North's focus on institutions of property rights in Europe, nor by Braudel's focus on intra-Europe trade and accumulation.

What is the structure of Pomeranz's argument? Again, it sees different factors as mattering at different times. Thus, the argument is causally sequential, going from technology, to war, to colonization, to markets, with supplies of natural resources a constant bonus and an important final step to industrialization (coal). All of these causes are necessary, for Pomeranz, but none are sufficient, explaining why Asia, despite having many of these same variables (some in even more favorable combinations than Europe), was not able to match Europe's rise.
Part 1 begins with the puzzle of "why Europe and not Asia?", going back to pre-1800 times. Against those who would see crucial pre-industrial differences between the two regions, with Europe having some kind of proto-industrial edge, Pomeranz demonstrates with statistical and secondary evidence that Europe possessed no edge over Asia in either life expectancy, fertility, or supply of capital.
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