The Wealth and Poverty of Nations

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In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and some are so Poor, David Landes sets out to elucidate the causes of the divergent destinies of different economies. In doing so, he presents economic history as a profoundly Eurocentric anecdote. He posits that Europe's industrial revolution is the epicenter of modernity and the means of how some--largely western Europe and northwest Europe's settler ex-colonies--have grown rich. He also conceives, that relative poverty elsewhere is the result of failure on the part of political, religious, and mercantile elites elsewhere to ascend (being circumstances set heavily against them) and maintain or regain independence from and assimilate the technologies of the people from Europe--merchants, priests, and thugs with guns--who came in boats, rarely with friendly intent. Thus Landes wages intellectual thermonuclear war on all who deny that the history of the wealth and poverty of nations over the past millennium is the history of the creation in Europe and diffusion of technologies of industrial production and sociological organization. He provides strong arguments in an attempt to defeat those who believe that Chinese technology was equal to British until 1800, that equatorial climates are as well-suited as mid-latitude climates to the kind of agriculture that can support an Industrial Revolution, or any of a host of other things. Landes' stress rests mostly on cultural factors--having to do with the fine workings of production, power, and prestige in the pre-industrial past--that gave European civilizations an edge over Chinese, Arabic, Indian, or Indonesian, in the speed of technological advance, that made it very likely that within Europe the breakthrough to industrialization would take place first in Britain, and that have made it damnably difficult since for people elsewhere to assimilate modern machine technologies and modes of social and economic organization. According to Landes,...
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