Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium

Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium

Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium

Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium

Excerpt

This book was written in the belief that you cannot make sense of today's world economy, or indeed of the world more generally, without understanding the history that produced it. Contemporary globalization, and its economic and political consequences, have not arisen out of a vacuum, but from a worldwide process of uneven economic development that has been centuries, if not millennia, in the making. In turn, this process has been critically shaped by the changing ways in which the various world regions have interacted with each other, not only through trade, migration, and investment, but also politically and culturally, over time. Understanding this twoway interaction between the pattern and evolution of interregional trade, on the one hand, and long-term global economic and political developments, on the other, is the main purpose of this volume.

As is the case with many books, this one has been written for the primary benefit of the authors. Countless economic histories of countries or regions have already been written, and there is now a rapidly growing literature on world history, and indeed on world economic history. There is also a more specialized, but still immense, literature on the history of international trade, with individual authors typically focusing on particular regions or time periods. What both of us found, however, when preparing lectures on the long-run history of world trade, or writing research papers on the subject, is that there was no one place that we could turn to for answers to the questions that we, as economists, would ask about the subject. Instead, we have had to become familiar—although no doubt we remain insufficiently so— with a vast and highly specialized scholarly literature, and we have found ourselves on numerous occasions plowing through the same sources looking for the odd nugget of information that was relevant for our purposes. In this manner, we gradually became independently convinced of the need for a single book that would provide as comprehensive and integrated an overview as possible of the history of world trade during the second millennium.

Even if we consider such an apparently specific and familiar a subject as the spice trade, for example, we find that there is no single authoritative account of it available in the existing literature. The reasons why this is so are quite obvious. The spices were produced . . .

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