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The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative (World Social Change) Hardcover – February 25, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0742517530 ISBN-10: 0742517535

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Product Details

  • Series: World Social Change
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742517535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742517530
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


I am delighted and excited by this book--it provides such an excellent overview of what world history is all about. The economy of the writing, the great balance the book displays in juggling an enormous agenda, and the elucidation of concepts are superb. (Ewa K. Bacon)

This is a concise and thought-provoking treatment of some major themes in world history: state-building, industrialization, environmental change, and the transformation of material life. The treatment of global inequality as a phenomenon in its own right—not just as a residue of more 'development' having occurred in some places than others—gives the book an important additional dimension. And as a single-authored work, it has a consistent and engaging voice that is hard to find in standard textbooks. (Pomeranz, Kenneth L.)

An absorbing, crisp, and compact account of how the modern world got to be the way it is. This is the most accessible and comprehensive book yet written that takes into account the recent departures in world history scholarship. Marks sees the world as a whole, and paints a clear and compelling panorama of the transformations that changed history between 1400 and 1900. (John R. McNeill)

Splendid--fresh, forceful, and efficient. Marks has a clear focus on the Eurocentrism of most of the textbooks on world history and he has developed an effective, solidly grounded strategy to counter the problem. The ideas are challenging, and the prose is readable and engaging. Ideal for introductory surveys of world history. (Edward L. Farmer)

Terrific! It's far and away the best of its type I've found in over thirty years of teaching. It's clear, succinct, and yet wonderfully comprehensive. It brings together all the current thinking in world history in about as nice a package as can be imagined. (Paul Solon)

The best easily-readable overview of the Eurocentric vs. World History debate yet. It should become a standard supplement in the college world history market. (Dennis O. Flynn)

Marks convincingly discredits the standard Eurocentric narrative of mainstream historians, replacing it with a balanced story that places Asia at the centre prior to the 1800s and Europe (then, America) at the centre thereafter….[The author uses] a cogent, accessible style grounded in key historical concepts such as contingency, conjuncture, and accident. (Huffman, James L. Pacific Affairs)

A very useful tool for world history courses, undergraduate and graduate, as well as offering new concepts for scholars still locked in rigid territorial or national studies. . . . The composition in this concise book is clear and topics are interestingly presented, while the source references make it useful for classroom research projects. . . . A helpful account of the principles and organization of trade in world history, written from a global perspective. (Mary Watrous-Schlesinger World History Connected)

Sets out an analytical framework that is accessible to students while providing an approach to world history that aspires to be truly global. Remarkable in [its] presentation of coherent global narratives in less than two hundred pages. Marks's book has a strong emphasis on economic factors and Western coercion and exploitation and has a clear analytical framework. Closely accompanied by lecture and discussion, it could be used to frame a world history course for the period after 1400. (David Ringrose Journal Of World History)

Neat, concise and quite complete. No blue smoke and mirrors. The right and the wrong are there for all to see! (E. J. Fabyan)

About the Author

Robert B. Marks is professor of history at Whittier College.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Person on February 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
After reading the last review, I was not looking forward to reading this book. As a history major, I've read a lot of really awful and uninsightful stuff, and I figured I was in for 150 pages of an average, West-hating, unbalanced, and bitter view of history.

Fortunately, I found that this wasn't at all the case. Marks managed to cover some of the most difficult and emotionally charged material (colonialism, racism, etc.) without injecting hatred or even judgement into his writing. [The Hitler comment mentioned by the other reviewer was taken radically out of context.]

Marks' view is really just that all people (not just Europeans, not just Asians) are capable of innovation and power given the right contingent circumstances. He even introduces many creative new ways of looking at old facts.

Furthermore, he seems much more aware of the difficulties of historical analyses than others. On several occasions, he discusses the problems that categorization presents for the historian. Unlike countless other academics, he does not pretend that our categories are things in themselves - he acknowledges that a term like, say, "European" is shorthand, rather than some unchanging essence. In short, he does not try to hide the fact that history is created by people, and thus should be subjected to careful scrutiny.

Given the enormity of the task he's presented with (summarizing world history in a half inch thick book), he does a fantastic job. The only "complaint" I can muster is that there could have been more coverage of Japan and Austrailia, but this was a judgement call that he made with good reason. This book provides a good framework in which to build a more detailed picture. I wholeheartedly recommend it for college courses or even as a supplement to an AP World History class.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Martin on August 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
It often takes 5-10 years or longer for new scholarship to filter down into undergraduate survey textbooks, and this is especially true of the rapidly developing field of world history. Robert Marks' short book is an attempt to bridge this gap. It is a terse synthesis of recent historical revisionism surrounding 'the rise of the west'.
Those familiar with the recent scholarship in world history will note that Marks has shamelessly stolen concepts and arguments outlined by historians such as Fernand Braudel, William McNeill, Andre Gunder Frank, Ken Pomeranz, Charles Tilly, Bin Wong, Jim Blaut, Philip Curtin, Janet Abu-Lughod, Immanuel Wallerstein, Dennis Flynn and Arturo Giraldez - and a host of other historians whose works form the foundation of 'the new world history'. This is no doubt the strength of this short 160 page book since there is virtually no other book that summarizes and integrates this scholarship so succinctly at the moment. Indeed, Marks' book works better as an historiographical survey than as a historical narrative, as the subtitle would suggest.
While the book is ostensibly written for both students and the educated public, it seems clear that it will be most useful as a text for college courses and perhaps even graduate seminars in world history. It should also find its way onto the bookshelves of teachers of world history survey courses and high school AP World History.
A final caveat - be prepared for sticker shock. It is obscenely expensive; even counting the index and preface... an exorbitant price for a paperback book of this length.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roger on September 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suppose every author brings their biases and paradigms with them into their work. Marks is refreshingly upfront about his. He wishes to craft a narrative on how the modern world developed out of the old which ignores differences in cultures, institutions, free enterprise and anything which can be deemed Eurocentric. In brief, he is trying to compose a narrative which is politically correct according to the domint paradigm of our age. Something presentable to the fragile modern student.

In other words, he throws his objectivity out the window before the book even begins. He might as well have said he was going to write the next great American novel without the use of vowels, or better yet, explain evolution without the Eurocentric nonsense called natural selection (extensively developed by dead bearded white guys with social Darwinist connections).

To be frank, Marks does not seem to even really get the enormity of the breakthrough in global living standards, which are somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty to one hundred times higher today than was customary throughout most of history. Nor does he grasp that the thing being explained is positive sum advance, rather than a zero sum game. Nor does he recognize that global inequality and poverty are declining at unprecedented historic levels in those states which do enter into global markets with institutions discovered and improved in the west.

The economics portrayed in this book are cringeworthy. Did you know China had a comparative advantage (not an absolute advantage) in everything? That the several-orders-of-magnitude increases in wages were due to collective bargaining? That the Indian Ocean was all peaceful until the evil white man got there?
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