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Books > Business & Money > Economics > Economic History > B001EQ4OLA
  1. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
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  2. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)

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Why are some parts of the world so rich and others so poor? Why did the Industrial Revolution--and the unprecedented economic growth that came with it--occur in eighteenth-century England, and not at some other time, or in some other place? Why didn't industrialization make the whole world rich--and why did it make large parts of the world even poorer? In A Farewell to Alms, Gregory Clark tackles these profound questions and suggests a new and provocative way in which culture--not exploitation, geography, or resources--explains the wealth, and the poverty, of nations.

Countering the prevailing theory that the Industrial Revolution was sparked by the sudden development of stable political, legal, and economic institutions in seventeenth-century Europe, Clark shows that such institutions existed long before industrialization. He argues instead that these institutions gradually led to deep cultural changes by encouraging people to abandon hunter-gatherer instincts-violence, impatience, and economy of effort-and adopt economic habits-hard work, rationality, and education.

The problem, Clark says, is that only societies that have long histories of settlement and security seem to develop the cultural characteristics and effective workforces that enable economic growth. For the many societies that have not enjoyed long periods of stability, industrialization has not been a blessing. Clark also dissects the notion, championed by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that natural endowments such as geography account for differences in the wealth of nations.

A brilliant and sobering challenge to the idea that poor societies can be economically developed through outside intervention, A Farewell to Alms may change the way global economic history is understood.

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Gregory Clark
Kindle Edition
Kindle eBook
Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

A Farewell to Alms is a meticulously researched, well argued shot at big history. It's primary question is, 'Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in England?' Clark's answer, in sum, is that the English population was evolving in 4 essential ways. 1) Interest rates were in decline for centuries leading up to the IR, even though income was static, suggesting that the English were becoming more patient. 2) Literacy and numeracy rates were increasing, indicating an increase in intelligence. 3) Interpersonal violence declined, which created the necessary conditions of stability and low risk. 4) Work hours steadily increased, indicating a robust work ethic and ample discipline.

Clark proves these claims and justifies their importance in innovative, engaging ways. The reason that England, rather then China, Japan, or India, evolved these traits to such an extent is that the upper class in England had greater reproductive success. England was thus permeated by economically... Read more
This truly excellent book made an exhaustive study of the trends of different elements in the society of late medieval and rennaissance England to come to the conclusion that the rich by leaving more heirs were imparting their values and qualities to successively lower elements of the social strata. This led to the characteristics and habits, such as diligence, foresight, and inventiveness that led to the industrial revolution in 18th and early 19th century England rather than polotical and other institutional inputs.
This book is very thorough in a research-analysis sense, but it reads as though the author is defending himself from hostile peers (other economists). The average reader, who is at best a novice economist, will find this endless detail tiresome. The subject matter and the points made are very interesting, however.
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