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Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by [Allen, Robert C.]
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Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Length: 193 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Robert C. Allen is Professor of Economic History at Oxford University. He is a fellow of the British Academy.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1006 KB
  • Print Length: 193 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199596654
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (September 15, 2011)
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005JC0QNA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,894 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Glenn A. Carleton on August 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author writes with a style where he consistently gets to the point with compelling facts and commentary. I found this book to cause me to reflect on what the US (or any country) needs to focus on to thrive, as well as to further increase my appreciation for the decisions made by our country's leaders over its first 100 plus years. While we have gotten a lot wrong, and still do, we got a lot right. If we focus on what we did right, we should be able to convince ourselves to do more of the same in the future. One example is education, how our approach to universal education gave us so many advantages. This book also gives one a sense of how lucky we were in many ways with inherent advantages one could argue we squandered. My thoughts are that one reason we are where we are today is that our founders were far more intellectual and influenced by great thinkers of the day (e.g. Scottish Enlightenment), whereas today we are simplistic, closed minded, and afraid to be bold with new approaches. Seems like we will have to go down further before we wake up and begin to dialogue as was done in the past. If we don't, my fear is whole generations will come out cynical and poorly prepared for the new world. This book seems to have answers to create an environment where future generations can develop the skills needed to thrive and compete with other countries, or even other generations who were given a head start.

In sum, I found this to be one of the more enjoyable and enlightening reads.
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Format: Paperback
The general question Professor Allen addresses is why some countries are rich and others poor. He notes that around 1500 CE there was no marked difference among most economies, and divergence only began when long distance commerce was enabled by the advent of full rigged sailing ships. He identifies this as the birth of globalization. The gains from this long distance trade were not enjoyed uniformly, thus beginning the "great divergence".

Both England and the Netherlands profited by this globalization, and had pulled away from the rest of the world by the 17th century. England became the home of the Industrial Revolution. This period, say 1760 to 1850, was replete with innovations in many areas, including the first steam engine.

The steam engine was the first practical demonstration that heat could be turned into power. He does a good job of describing it's early evolution and its initial impact, but he doesn't explicitly note its crucial role in opening the technical door to the much more widespread exploitation of the power contained in high energy fuels like coal and oil and, much later, nuclear fission. Escaping the power limitations inherent in animal muscle put the west on an entirely new trajectory of economic growth.

The last two-thirds of book presents a description of the economic development of many individual areas of the world and their economic interactions. In addition to GDP/head, his yardstick of comparison is often the relative wages of workers. The Economists magazine's Big Mac Index was not available in those early days to normalize currency differences, so he constructed his own: he estimated the bare subsistence wage for each country, and then compared countries in terms of wages as a factor of bare subsistence.
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First of all, Global Economic History is a pretty ambitious topic. But I think the author did a pretty good job. There are a number of good charts. Where I think the book is particularly good is in explaining why Latin America and Sub Saharan Africa have not done well. There isn't a real good explanation of why the Soviet Union growth stalled out. There is a pretty good explanation of Japan's rise but again not so good on why it stalled out. I think the explanation of China is fairly good but it doesn't even mention Special Economic Zones. No one is going to be perfect on such an ambitious topic. This book is one of the better ones.
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I had to read this book for my humanities class. It was a short, easy read. Easy to understand and informative. Worth the read if you're interested in learning about the history of economics on a global scale!
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This is the perfect book for someone without a background in economics who wants to learn about what's important in the economic realm.

This VSI is just the book for someone, like myself, (I've studied a bit of Philosophy and History) who wants to be conversant in how economics works. I'm not terribly interested in the art economic forecasting as that sort of thing is on the level of astrology as far as I can tell.

I am, as I said, very interested in some grounding in economics and this book is a delightful way to acquire that sort of understanding.
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This is really a two-star product at best. The reason I am choosing one star is in part because it has received very exaggerated reviews from others, and I am hoping that my review would balance out a bit this overwhelmingly and superficially positive reception of Allen.

The piece is indeed informative, and I recommend people to buy the title and read it. But I must say that it does become esoteric at times (at least once in every chapter) and tends to display insufficient explanation on certain crucial issues it touches on: like when the author talks about "macro-economic" factors during the Industrial Revolution (pp. 47-52) or why world trade and the establishment of new colonies in the Americas produced radically different outcomes in Britain and Spain. In other words, Allen does not have the skill to write in such a way that average people would understand him.

I have found a few factual and conceptual errors in the text as well: such as on p. 54 when the author implies that South Asia/India was not colonized until "the Mutiny of 1857" which is really not the case. If Allen doesn't know that South Asia was collonized much earlier and how vital it was for the rise of Britain as an economic power, I am not sure if he is in any position to tell us much about "global economic history." The colonization of South Asia/India had started formally a century before 1857 (in the 18th century) and informally in the 17th century (rather than the author's mistaken reference to the mid-19th century). On p. 65, Allen refers to various parts of the Americas in the pre-1450, pre-European/Columbian era as "the USA," "Mexico," "Peru," and so on. Careful historians would instead refer to the same regions either by the indigenous population that lived there (e.g.
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