In This Review

The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective
The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective
By Angus Maddison
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2001, 383 pp

Maddison's latest book attempts to quantify historical economic growth in enough countries to give good estimates for the world as a whole. Drawing on the work of other economic historians and supplemented by the author's informed judgment, his volume boldly takes such estimates back to the year 1000 while exploring fascinating tangents on such topics as shipping and colonialism. The second half of the twentieth century stands out as the period of most rapid economic growth, when the percentage of the absolute poor in the world dropped to its lowest level ever in human history. With half of the text devoted to tables, however, the book is not for innumerates. And readers should be careful to focus on changes in per capita income rather than direct comparisons of the economic size of countries. Maddison estimates income at purchasing-power parity rates that are suitable for cross-country comparisons of economic well-being but unreliable for measuring national purchasing power in the world economy.