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The Wealth and Poverty of Nations – David Landes


This book contains an historical analysis about economical and technical development of nations, mainly focused in the last 600 years, with a particular importance to colonialism. It explains the causes, the reasons, and the mechanisms that made possible for some countries to achieve economical success and others with apparently similar initial situation to fail. The author investigates about many aspects like the environment, the social situation, the role of key innovations, the political decisions, the important events. The book is so large that It is not possible to resume it here, but I can list some important factor that appears to play important roles in the development:

  • Climate (mainly influencing agriculture and endemic diseases)
  • Natural resources (minerals, metals, carbon, oil)
  • Culture (in the sense of set of inspiring values, hence also religion)
  • Social structure
  • Government’s influence over novelties, and Government’s fear over social change
  • Protectionism of emerging markets
  • Competition between countries

The book is successful in describing the complexity of causes and effects involved in the technical and economical path of the world. For this reason I consider this book useful and perfectly on topic in respect to our investigation. From an historical point of view, I feel anyway that it underestimates the human and economical damages resulting from western colonialism. To get a different perspective about it, I suggest the reader to read also “Late Victorian Holocausts” by Mike Davis.


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