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The Wheels of Commerce (Civilization and Capitalism: 15Th-18th Century -Volume 2)

4.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520081154
ISBN-10: 0520081153
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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Wheels of Commerce (Civilization and Capitalism: 15Th-18th Century -Volume 2)
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  • Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life (Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century)
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  • The Perspective of the World: Civilization and Capitalism 15Th-18th Century, Vol. 3
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Originally published in the early 1980s, Civilization traces the social and economic history of the world from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, although his primary focus is Europe. Braudel skims over politics, wars, etc., in favor of examining life at the grass roots: food, drink, clothing, housing, town markets, money, credit, technology, the growth of towns and cities, and more. The history is fascinating and made even more interesting by period prints and drawings.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"The intricacy of detail and boldness of hypothesis in this book are indisputable, and if one is to do more than skim it, it demands and repays enormous attention. . . . The lavish illustrations are superbly well chosen. The pictures show the endless variety of commercial dealings of which humans are capable."--Jonathan Spence, "New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Series: Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 670 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (December 23, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520081153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520081154
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Historians, they say, are either lumpers or splitters: the former seek to make generalizations while the latter seek to refute and refine them. Braudel strikes a balance between these approaches, at one time examining the economic point of view (and related theoretical controversies, such as the ideas of Schumpeter on innovation), while searching for historical examples that support or obliterate them. He is a true master scholar.
This volume adds to the first, moving from living standards to the establishment and functioning of trading and banking systems, both by capitalists (holders of sufficient resources to manipulate markets) and the merchants and craftsmen who operated within these markets. It is a crucial distinction that demonstrates how simple-minded the ideological argument of "free markets" can be: the rich can and do design economic systems to function to their advantage. You follow the development of international trading networks by Italians, Jews and Armenians; the evolution of banking and the handling of paper money; and even the influence of social hierarchies on economic growth.
While Braudel concentrates almost exclusively on Europe in this volume, which lessens the universality of his approach, it is utterly fascinating from page one. The economic systems he analyses were somewhat incomplete, though evolving rapidly. An additional limit to his approach is the exclusive focus on econimic life. At times, he views the building of chateaux and the commission of great works of art from the Reanassance to the 19C as a reflection of the lack of wealth-generating investment opportunities during a time of economic revolution!
And that is just a few of the issues covered. Each section of the book is like an essay on some basic economic notion.
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Format: Paperback
In The Wheels of Commerce, Fernand Braudel deftly blended history and economics with the result that neither suffers. His goal in this book, the second volume in his Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, was "to analyse the machinery of exchange as a whole, from primitive barter up to and including the most sophisticated capitalism" (21). In the process of examining this machinery of exchange, Braudel also proposed an ambitious thesis concerning the origins of capitalism. The book itself is a monumental work, an impressive combination of statistical analyses and illustrations from primary sources.

Braudel's first two chapters, "The Instruments of Exchange" and "Markets and the Economy," investigated the role of circulation. In chapter one, he concentrated on the mechanisms by which goods (and money) were traded. Braudel explained that markets and shops were at the bottom of the world of commerce. Markets took place once or twice a week, and shops were open everyday. Fairs, the wholesale markets, were on the higher level. Participants traded large amounts of goods and settled their accounts at the end. Braudel pointed out the importance of fairs in the development of capitalism: "The fair itself created credit" (91). If one merchant had a negative trade balance with another merchant, he would either offer a bill of exchange (a promise of payment on another exchange) or defer payment with interest until another fair. Additionally, these bills of exchange could be sold to a third party if necessary, introducing speculation. The trading mechanisms of the fair were eventually consolidated into the large exchanges of cities like Amsterdam and London, and eventually these exchanges grew into the stock markets.
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Format: Paperback
There are various pretenders to the throne of explaining globalization, such as Thomas Friedman's recent The World Is Flat, but all such efforts seem shallow and pallid compared to the masterwork of the genre, Fernamd Braudel's trilogy Civilization & Capitalism, 15th - 18th Century (The Structures of Everyday Life (Volume 1), The Wheels of Commerce (Volume 2)

and The Perspective of the World (Volume 3)

I do not lightly suggest tackling almost 1,800 pages of reading, but there is simply no substitute (short of a master's degree) if you aspire to a true understanding of global trade's role in the social, political and economic history of our world. It is not a boring read--anything but, for Braudel's depth of research, breadth of knowledge and his appreciation for the limits of current scholarship are matchless. Where authors like Friedman incautiously grind whatever axe they set out, drawing upon work which supports their thesis, Bruadel is ever-cautious about drawing hard-and-fast conclusions from the data he has culled from archives' dusty pages.

What Braudel reveals is a world which has been disrupted by far-reaching trade for hundreds of years. Capital has flowed across the great oceans of our globe for far longer than most people realize, destroying local industries in favor of distant ones in the process. It is impossible to summarize such a rich, vast work, but reading even one of these volumes will give you a deep insight into the long history of globalization, and how entire industries and financial centers have been displaced time and again in the Arab Levant, in Asia, and in Europe.
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