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

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

By Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke
Princeton University Press, 2007
624 pp. $39.50
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This new history of the last thousand years of world trade is remarkable in both its grand sweep and its scholarly depth. It pieces together the story of global commerce from the medieval spice traders and nomads of Central Asia to the discovery and incorporation of the New World, to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Europe, and to the globalizing forces of the postwar world economy. One theme is the importance of the "vast webs of interrelationships" between western Europe and other regions that, beginning in the medieval period, set the stage for modern economic growth. The rise of the world economy is not a story of a European "miracle"; it is a global story of the long-distance movement of people, goods, ideas, microbes, and soldiers and how this shaped the social and political geography on which manufacture and exchange now take place. The other theme is the critical role of war in propelling economic change through upheaval and adaptation. As Findlay and O'Rourke argue, "The greatest expansions of world trade have tended to come ... from the barrel of a Maxim gun, the edge of a scimitar, or the ferocity of nomadic horsemen."