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

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Why are some countries rich and others poor? In 1500, the income differences were small, but they have grown dramatically since Columbus reached America. Since then, the interplay between geography, globalization, technological change, and economic policy has determined the wealth and poverty of nations. The industrial revolution was Britain's path breaking response to the challenge of globalization. Western Europe and North America joined Britain to form a club of
rich nations by pursuing four polices-creating a national market by abolishing internal tariffs and investing in transportation, erecting an external tariff to protect their fledgling industries from British competition, banks to stabilize the currency and mobilize domestic savings for investment,
and mass education to prepare people for industrial work.

Together these countries pioneered new technologies that have made them ever richer. Before the Industrial Revolution, most of the world's manufacturing was done in Asia, but industries from Casablanca to Canton were destroyed by western competition in the nineteenth century, and Asia was transformed into 'underdeveloped countries' specializing in agriculture. The spread of economic development has been slow since modern technology was invented to fit the needs of rich countries and is ill
adapted to the economic and geographical conditions of poor countries. A few countries - Japan, Soviet Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and perhaps China - have, nonetheless, caught up with the West through creative responses to the technological challenge and with Big Push industrialization that has
achieved rapid growth through investment coordination. Whether other countries can emulate the success of East Asia is a challenge for the future.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

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


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1006 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 193 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0199596654
  • Verlag: OUP Oxford; Auflage: 1 (15. September 2011)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B005JC0QNA
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Ever since the seminal eponymous work by Adam Smith, the wealth of nations has been one of the most intriguing topics of intellectual curiosity and research in both the economics and history. For the most of human history the relative wealth of individuals around the world did not vary much. Poor peasants in the Roman empire had just about enough resources to satisfy their most basic needs, and the same can be said about the, say, Australian aborigines at the same point in time. All of this started to change rater dramatically around the year 1500 AD. At around that time Europe started to diverge from the rest of the world, and this trend has continued to this day. Some parts of the world that were under the European influence managed to keep the pace with Europe, but many had settled into the slower developmental progress. Why was Europe in particular able to advance so rapidly, and what has happened in the other parts of the world, are some of the questions that 'Global Economic History ' A Very Short Introduction' tries to answer.

If you have never thought about the abovementioned questions, then the material that is presented in this short book can be revelatory. For such a small resource this book contains a remarkable collection of charts, graphs, and other data that can shed a lot of light on the way that wealth and prosperity can be defined through history. Robert Allen bases his analysis on this wealth of data and offers his insights into their meaning in the context of economic development. Economics is notorious for the variety of often opposing views that are invoked to elucidate the real-world phenomena, and it's virtually certain that this short introduction will have its own share of detractors on at least some issues.
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The book focuses on "modernization" as a European or western phenomenon. So it neglects other periods or civilisations. However, on this narrower subject, it discusses most relevant aspects in a fluent and easy to read manner.
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das Buch ist verständlich und zeigt sehr kompakt die Gründe für die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung in verschiedenen Weltregionen zu verschiedenen Zeiten. Außerdem räumt es mit Vorurteilen auf: z.B. mit dem Credo, dass niedrige Löhne zu wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung und Konkurrenzvorteilen führen. Das Gegenteil ist der Fall, wie sich immer wieder gezeigt hat. Die Geschichte zu betrachten macht also mehr Sinn als irgendwelche Wirtschaftstheorien, die behaupten, wie etwas ist - ohne mal zu gucken, wie es tatsächlich gewesen ist!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Very High Density Information 18. Februar 2013
Von Jerry Ward - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
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.

He describes the standard model of development: the integration of internal markets through the improvement of transportation and the elimination of internal tariffs, the protection of infant industries through tariffs, banks to produce stable financing, and mass education to upgrade the labor force. He describes its application to Russia before WWI, where it failed, and to Japan where it ultimately succeeded. In the 19th century, with singular boldness, the Japanese completely rejected the ancient cultures and practices, introduced and emphasized mass education, and began the adoption of western technology modified to their needs. In the early 20th century, full implementation of the standard model transformed them into a modern nation. A still different story was told for the USSR and for China.

Data is presented that clearly shows how GDP per worker rises dramatically with capital invested per worker throughout the world. He argues that low wage countries have remained poor because there is little incentive to substitute capital for cheap labor. This is one of Africa's many problems, still suffering from its colonial legacy.

I have one criticism: I would have appreciated more discussion of the differences stemming from different political-economic practices, such as state planning versus free-market capitalism. Issues such as the sanctity of private property and the relative economic freedom accorded individuals as it affects the level of innovation and entrepreneurship. Such factors are briefly mentioned early on, but essentially dismissed.

Overall, it is an impressive work. The data he has amassed is comprehensive, and his descriptions are truly enlightening. It is not a casual read; he is economical with words and conveys a lot of information in a short book. I regret that it was not published soon enough to be a resource for me in writing my own book, The Evolution of Riches: An Economic History of Innovation and Capitalism, the Role of Government, and the Hazards of Democracy.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Well written and relevant to today's political solutions 26. August 2012
Von Glenn A. Carleton - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
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.
34 von 50 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Quite biased 13. Mai 2014
Von Ronan - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
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 or borrow the title and read it. My problem however is with the bias of the author which comes up time and again throughout the book, and undermines his supposed authority on the subject. So my recommendation is that do not trust this guy as Allen presents a liberal view of economic history which is old-fashioned at best and highly ideological at worst. What he says and what leaves unsaid in this little book tells you much about his economic dogmatism.

Allen's understanding of things is very similar account to a Whig view of history which deletes a good deal of very bloody business in global economic history. The economic development of the non-Western world was prevented not so much by "culture," "tradition," or "feudalism" as by war, invasion, opium, and a Lancashire-imposed system of one-way tariffs. By 1850, for example, the British imposed opium imports into China which siphoned 11 percent of China's money-supply and 13 percent of its silver stock out of the country. But this and other similar violent means through which the global economic system was created are left unexplained by the author. Allen talks a great deal about the _internal brakes_ on economic growth in non-Western countries (in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America). But he does not want to talk about the fact that from about 1780 or 1800 onward, for more than a century, every serious attempt by a non-Western society to move into a fast lane of development or to regulate its terms of trade was met by a military as well as an economic response from London or a competing imperial capital. Japan, prodded by Perry's black ships, is the exception that proves the rule.

Now a few other issues:

First, let me note that the book becomes 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., Aztec society or region) or by some type of geographical feature (e.g., eastern coasts of North America or the Andes). These are two examples to show that Allen has both factual and conceptual errors. Careful readers would of course find more.

By far the most problematic aspect of "Global Economic History" is its subtle but nonetheless absolutely certain congratulatory tone when it comes to colonialism and large-scale violence that went into the making of Western economies of Europe and the USA. When Allen is busy celebrating the successes of Western, "liberal" economies, he fogets to tell us how they actually arrived at such successes. Time and again, the author minimizes and downplays the importance of the expropriation of land and natural resources in so very many places across the world (i.e., in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and beyond). Nor does he consider the centrality of centuries of unpaid or else extremely cheap labor (provided by African slaves, Native Americans, Chinese workers, white indentured servants from Europe, and still others) in the eventual prosperity of Western countries. Nor does he take into account that Britain (which is singled out time and again by Allen as a highly developed economy worth emulating) developed its economic institutions from the eighteenth to the twentieth century under very dubious circumstances that included large-scale and mostly illegal sale of drugs such as opium in East Asia (this is when British India was the largest drug cartel in the world) -- at a time when the same drug was considered unlawful in Britain and other parts of the Western world. Nor does Allen tell us anything about how British (and other Western states') economic policies throughout the late Victorian era led to the death and starvation of millions of people across Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, and beyond. Even when he talks about de-industrialization of major world empires of the nineteenth century, Allen is disingenuous in his analysis as he argues that de-industrialization was simply an "inevitable" outcome of what he calls "globalization," superior "technology" in the West, and absence of appropriate government policy in most of the rest of the world. Notice the last term of explanation: *absence of appropriate government policy in places like China, India, the Middle East, and Africa.* In other words, Allen does not tell us *why* on earth so many governments around the world actually "failed" to come up with the "appropriate" policy even as they were being colonized by the "civilizing" forces of the Europeans.

Why? Well, given the pro-Western, pro-liberal, pro-British, and pro-Anglo-American tone of the book, I think he's trying hard to minimize/overlook the fact that the British and other European empires (from France and Germany to the Netherlands, Russia, and even the USA) made sure to stop most of the rest of the world throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from adopting the "appropriate" policy these various regions of the world needed to have breakthrough economic development. Think of the Opium Wars with China. Or the suppression of India and the forceful de-industrialization of South Asia through war, violence, and economic policy. Think of the Ottoman Debt Administration and rounds of wars with the Ottomans and North Africans in the Middle East and North Africa throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Think of the colonization of Egypt in the late nineteenth century or driving it to bankruptcy. Think of the Anglo-Persian War of 1856-57 or two rounds of Russo-Persian Wars which resulted in the seperation of lands from Qajar Iran and also the economic pacification of the rest of the Middle East. Think of tens of other wars fought throughout Africa to subjugate and colonize an entire continent. And think of the French violence in North Africa in places like Algeria throughout much of the nineteenth century. Consider the Russian subjugation of Central and North Asia. There are many many more examples of Western countries using diplomacy, economic policy, or violence to prevent the rest of the world from adopting "appropriate" policy to develop economically. In all this, Allen downplays colonialism and fails to show that most of the regions of the world were conquered, exploited, and in many cases destroyed by half a dozen Western economies that he celebrates their development, economic expansion, and the wisdom of their politicians and policy makers. Nor does the author indicate any knowledge of the fact that what he calls "independent" economies/countries (such as the Ottoman Empire or China) were in fact no more than soft colonies of Western powers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Allen talks about the global "market forces" as if they were completely natural and innocent. As if they were not designed by a small group of nations to benefit their economies. His emphasis on "impersonal" market forces is misleading at best and deceiving at worst becuase it implies that economic development (in the West) and underdevelopment (in the rest) were possible without human (mostly Western) agency. As if they just happened.

Allen's overarching argument is that the poor countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America became poor (in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) because of the international "market forces" that had been developed since the Industrial Revolution and because these regions didn't do enough (notice who is being blamed here) to catch up with the West in the areas of "mass education," "protectionist policies," "modern transportation," "modern banking," and ultimately "modern industries." While this is only part of the story, as I noted above the author refrains from explaining the significant role of Western countries in actually *not allowing* other regions of the world to undertake these endeavors and reforms. Don't take my word. Just pick up a regional economic history and read about China or India or the Middle East or Africa or Latin America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But do yourself a favore and do not trust Allen.

One thing that is clear throughout the book is the bias of the author for a "liberal" economic organization. Following Adam Smith and others, Allen unnecessarily glorifies the workings of a "free" market without any reference to the fact that while historically market forces certainly contributed to great economic development in a few key countries of the world, they also brought about continuing underdevelopment of other countries in many parts of the globe. Even in the wealthy nations of the world which benefited from these market forces, we witness their often dehumanizing impact: with the growth of the urban poor and the underclass population for example. In every wealthy Western economy, you'd find millions of poor and underclass population in the ninteenth and twentieth centuries. People whose household economies Allen does not wish to talk about.

Nor does the author talk about the environmental impact of what he calls "economic growth." All development comes at a cost. The price of economic development in parts of the world has been a tremendous amount of environmental and resource degradation (from deforestation and desertification to outbreaks of pandemics, pollution, and beyond) which environmental historians of the USA, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America have for the past several decades been writing about. Allen shows himself to be completely unaware of this literature or in any case tends to disregard it. These and similar important issues are consistently glossed over because this book was written by a highly biased author who valorizes every aspect of capitalism while whitewashing any possible negative impact it could have had historically.

Even in terms of conceptualizing a "global" story of economic change, this book fails to represent the majority of the world. It is in fact laughable to say that this is a "global economic history." It really is not. The chapters focus mostly on Western Europe (or I should say Britain really) and the USA (and here I should say the Northeastern region of the USA) with some references being made to Latin America (i.e., Mexico but not the rest of Latin America) and Africa (i.e., only a small region in West Africa) while Russia/Soviet Union, China, Japan, and Canada are referred only in later chapters or in passing (theic economies are not discussed really). The economic transformation of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, the Pacific islands, Central America, South America, and Australia/New Zealand, along with the southern, central, and western regions of the USA, is by and large disregarded by Allen who misleadingly claims to be providing us with a "global" narrative of economic change in the past 500 years. This is not because of the size or scope of the book but rather because of the author's bias or lack of historical knowledge of these regions: he talks far more than necessary about Britain and the Northeastern region of the USA -- and more than half of the book is about half a dozen economies in Western Europe or the USA with the Anglo-American societies getting the lion's share. Reading the book, you can't but sense that Allen is really infatuated with Britain and the Anglo-American world.

My recommendation is that do read this book, but also read a lot of other regional economic histories produced by Chinese, South Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African historians. And do not trust everything this guy tells you.

A good place to start is perhaps David Graeber's recent book titled "Debt: The First 5,000 Years" which is essentially a global economic history except that it doesn't have the problems I have noted above. It is also far more in-depth and highly readable. Published by Melville House, it immediately became an international bestseller. This book was written by an economic anthropologist who is critical of biased economic historians such as the author of "Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction."

Other books to consider:

Giovanni Arrighi, "The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times"
Alfred Feuerwerker, "The Chinese Economy, 1870-1949"
Mike Davis, "Late Victorian Holocausts: El-Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World"
Philip Huang, "The Peasant Family and Rural Development in the Yangzi Delta, 1350-1988"
A. Latham, "The International Economy and the Undeveloped World, 1865-1914"
Prasannan Parthasarathi, "Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850"
Kenneth Pomeranz,"The Great Divergence"
Carol Trocki, "Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy"
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Ambitious topic done well 5. Februar 2016
Von William A. Thayer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
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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4.0 von 5 Sternen easy read. Easy to understand and informative 17. März 2016
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
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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