Other Sellers on Amazon
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing ‘Send link’, you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message and data rates may apply.
Follow the Author
Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity: 94 Hardcover – Illustrated, 2 January 2020
Enhance your purchase
Frequently bought together
About the Author
Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. His many books include The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton). He lives in Palo Alto, California. Twitter @WalterScheidel
- Publisher : Princeton University Press; 1st edition (2 January 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 696 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691172188
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691172187
- Dimensions : 16.26 x 5.59 x 23.62 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 145,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Review this product
Top reviews from other countries
Scheidel points out that “smaller states with functioning representative institutions were able to impose higher tax rates than larger absolutist states.” By 1700 Britain and the Netherlands had the highest tax rates in Europe, probably in the world, this when they were the two most successful states in the world.
In Britain, the pioneer state of modernity, “law and politics, war, and mercantilist protectionism. Together, they created an environment that was singularly conducive to productive experimentation and sustainable economic development. Independence – embodied in formal sovereignty as well as institutional autonomy – was paramount: without it, none of these elements could have been present in a comparable manner.”
Scheidel stresses how important national independence was to Britain’s advance: “Sovereignty also helped England protect other features that arguably contributed to economic development, such as the superior physical and cognitive condition of workers that owed much to improvements in nutrition sustained by rising agricultural productivity, to job training, and to Poor Laws that helped feed the labor force. Independence ensured that all these benefits accrued to the English population: there were no countervailing modes of coercive redistribution – such as transfers to a distant imperial center – that could have interfered.”
Scheidel asks whether the profits from slavery really were responsible for industrial take-off and noted that profits from (all) trade were only a few per cent of Britain’s GDP and that the investment actually devoted to early industrialisation was not very large.
Protectionism achieved innovation. “In Britain’s case, one of the most potent effects of interstate conflict on economic progress was indirect: it encouraged protectionist strictures that prompted creative experimentation and technological breakthroughs. … the protectionist systems promoted manufacturing in order to add value and substitute for imports, as well as trade – ideally conducted by one’s own countrymen – to sell goods abroad.”
As Scheidel observes, “the fact that England had escaped most thoroughly from Roman imperial traditions helped it establish durable local units of government and political representation. Later, the break with papal Rome under Henry VIII made England a pioneer in creating a national church.”
Common law, by contrast with Roman law, conduced to progress: “the contrast between common law traditions, in which judges referred among competing lawyers and layman juries, and continental courts, dominated by expert judges and prone to enhance top-down control by the central state, is worth noting.” Further, Roman law was very patriarchal, giving greater powers to fathers. Common law by contrast stressed the consensual and contractual nature of marriage.
Schiedel`s main theme is that Europe`s national divisions enabled competition to take place in Europe. This competition between European states provoked innovations in all aspects of society. The massive change that took place in Europe resulted in new forms of; weapons, warfare, religions, governance, legal systems, technology, literacy, education, consumer products, agriculture, and of course, the colonization of the New World. Schiedel believes none of these social transformations, would have taken place under a one rule empire. The extinction of the Roman Empire allowed Europe to embrace change and develop new and modern methods. Throughout the book, Scheidel compares events in a divided Europe, to what was happening under a monopolistic rule of an empire. Scheidel looks to China for examples of monopoly rule. But other world empires are also examined.
The reader will enjoy a thought-provoking journey of economic and political history. Yes, there will be a lot of points of contention. But on such a wide-ranging topic, one expects areas of disagreement. In fact, this is what makes the book enjoyable. The reader is constantly bobbing and weaving in and out of agreement with the author.
The concluding chapter was a bit of a disappointment. Let's face it, these exact issues are currently raging all over Europe and the rest of the World. Brexit, Catalonia separation, Hong Kong protests, and Wexit threats in Canada are just a few examples. Breaking off relations with a large monopolistic government is a front and centre issue. Will the power of laissez-faire economics make a comeback? Or will state-run, monopolistic big-government policies continue to dominate? In the conclusion of the book, Scheidel avoided these current issues.
Overall, a very interesting read.