Why Were the Americas So Underdeveloped when Europeans Reached Them?

Mesopotamia at 1500 BC looks much like Mesoamerica at 1000 AD. The Eurasians had three thousand years to build upon their Mesopotamian foundations before the coming together of the New and Old Worlds. The Americans, by contrast, had only five hundred years…

The Industrial Revolution

Britain experienced a period of rapid technological innovation during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The way in which work was done changed radically, and British goods rose to dominance in markets around the world…

The Steam Engine

The steam engine is generally considered to be the most revolutionary invention of the Industrial Revolution. It would power a new generation of industrial machinery; and it would give rise to two transportation technologies, railways and steamships, that would stitch the world together…

Why Did the Industrial Revolution Happen in Britain in the Eighteenth Century?

The central feature of the Industrial Revolution was technological innovation on an unprecedented scale, so explaining the time and place of the innovation is tantamount to explaining the time and place of the Industrial Revolution. Why did this wave of innovation occur in Britain in the eighteenth century?

The Division of the World

W. Arthur Lewis explains how the world divided into manufacturers and primary producers…

How Modern Science Came to China

China was not exposed to Euclid’s geometry until the arrival of the Jesuits in the late sixteenth century. It was not exposed to Newtonian mechanics until 1849, more than 160 years after the publication of Principia

Why Nations Fail: 
Extractive and Inclusive Institutions

Acemoglu and Robinson’s goal is to explain why some nations are rich and others are poor. They present a theory based on the interaction between political and economic institutions. Casual empiricism suggests that its explanatory power is quite strong…

Why Nations Fail:
 Theory is Tidy, History is Messy

Acemoglu and Robinson argue that sustained growth is almost always attained in a particular way: inclusive political institutions develop first, followed by inclusive economic institutions, followed by growth. They recognize the boldness of their claim…