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Summary

Most of us have a limited understanding of the powerful role economics has played in shaping human civilization. This makes economic history - the study of how civilizations structured their environments to provide food, shelter, and material goods - a vital lens through which to think about how we arrived at our present, globalized moment.

Designed to fill a long-empty gap in how we think about modern history, these 48 lectures are a comprehensive journey through more than 600 years of economic history, from the medieval world to the 21st century. Aimed at the layperson with only a cursory understanding of the field, An Economic History of the World since 1400 reveals how economics has influenced (and been influenced by) historical events and trends, including the Black Death, the Age of Exploration, the Industrial Revolution, the European colonization of Africa, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the birth of personal computing. Professor Harreld has crafted a riveting, centuries-long story of power, glory, and ideology that reveals how, in step with history, economic ideas emerged, evolved, and thrived or died.

Along the way, you'll strengthen your understanding of a range of economic concepts, philosophies, trends, treaties, and organizations, including the mercantile system, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Marxist economics, African independence movements, and the formation of economic organizations including the European Union. You'll also consider provocative questions about the intersection of history and economics. What did the economies of Roosevelt's America and Hitler's Germany have in common? What does history tell us about how nations should dictate economic policy? Can we say that free trade is truly free?

Marvel at just how much we still have to learn about the economic forces that have dictated our past - and that will dictate our future.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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Superb narrative and intriguing perspectives

What made the experience of listening to An Economic History of the World since 1400 the most enjoyable?

The title could be misleading, because it is neither purely economics-based, nor is it correspondingly dry. Instead, it focusses on a range of technological developments that enhanced the economic advantages of different nation-states etc. at key points in history.

As a result, you're learning about exactly why the fortunes of nations were influenced by discoveries and innovations over hundreds of years.

There's a lot of wisdom in here, and even as an engineer, I found myself learning a lot about previous tech developments and appreciating how important they really were.

My favourite moment was the description of Germany's economy before the Nazi party started to gain power, truly fascinating - providing you don't already have the insight of course.

Whether you're in business, education, politics or needing to become well-rounded from any discipline such as economics, this is a must listen and is in my top three audiobooks. I doubt you'd get the broadness of perspective from studying economics alone, nor the same rigour from reading non-academic literature.

Additionally, the narrative is pitched correctly, it rarely gets tiring and maintains your attention. My acid test is can I maintain my attention whilst driving and this passes.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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I enjoyed this

obviously this can only scratch the surface of the vast subject it is trying to cover. but it was a great introduction and I will definitely look out for another great course

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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buy, listen, learn.

very well researched, excellent presentation. and it does indeed has a scope of 600 years. I really recommend this book to people who want to understand history, other people and themselves, even, better.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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So "Europe is parochial" & every else is wondrous?

What would have made An Economic History of the World since 1400 better?

A neutral view of the world. This lecturer is a cultural Marxist and delighted at every instance in cultural self loathing. He should reflect on George Orwell's comments on the English intelligentsia and stealing for a poor box. Had he been present at the 1933 Oxford Union King of Country debate, he'd have voted in favour, to the delight of the enemies of freedom.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Just make it a history, not an indoctrination. If he doesn't like anglosphere exceptionalism he should just state it plainly, get over it, and avoid mixing the message all through the text.

How could the performance have been better?

Just focus on what happened and the ideas of the time.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from An Economic History of the World since 1400?

A camera close up on the author studying Cultural Marxism and his expressions of introspection.

Any additional comments?

Is this what passes for academia in 2016?

55 of 104 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

This is what audible is great for. If you have an interest in history and business but are not a scholar on the subjects, this is a manageable breakdown that will inform and fascinate you throughout!

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Western European-centred, insights into other continents but complete lack of insights (& understanding) of Eastern Europe

Western European-centred, insights into other continents but complete lack of insights (& understanding) of Eastern Europe. For example lack of mentioning that Eastern European nations didn't have or used slaves. Authors is happy to say that Eastern Europe was slower with introducing changes in social structure or in industrialisation but completely forgot to mention that wealth of Western Europe was built on slavery. Another mistake about understanding Eastern Europe is explaining plague. Authors explain that it didn't spread into Bohemia due to geomorphology but doesn't mention that there was no Plague in Poland that is mostly flat and has many rivers so authors explanation that plague didn't reach Eastern Europe due to hilly terrain doesn't quite meet facts. Also Another fact that first democratic election took part in Poland in June 1989 and East Germans started to flee into Poland and only then East German couldn't stop the democracy wave and allowed in October for wall to fall. Polish Solidarity movement started the change in Eastern Europe, not fall of Berlin Wall. Again author completely miss the point.

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A good overview of economic history.

A good overview of economic history, I learned a lot about ages and countries that I was not aware of.

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exciting. but maybe too broad topic.

as a result the book hardly ever goes into any of the details and offers really only an overview of the the last 500 years from an economical perspective.

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Fantastic, easy to follow well written narrative

The narrative is very well written, intertwining successfully the happenings on a global scale. It's great that the narrative doesn't focus exclusively on European history, but touches on the influence India, China, Persia etc had. I was able to follow it legibly at 1.25x the speed.
Overall, really recommend it!

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Just Like Economy.. a bit tedious

What did you like best about An Economic History of the World since 1400? What did you like least?

It is a book which in fact, goes above and beyond on the modern society times to explain the economy history, it does touch base and relates with very iconic moments in human history, and the music to breakdown between chapters is somehow nice.
The book is a bit messy in terms of actually putting breaks or defining phases of history and changes, it goes to broad that entangles some concepts and it's complicated to follow at times or to recap.

Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Maybe, probably it was just the subject

What about Professor Donald J. Harreld’s performance did you like?

He was good

Was An Economic History of the World since 1400 worth the listening time?

75% yes

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  • Tristan
  • 10-11-16

Slightly incoherent

I wish prof. Harreld would drop the written lecture and just talk about the subject he loves.

As it is, by apparently reading verbatim, he somehow has the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, his delivery sounds stilted and he garbles the meaning of sentences in an effort to sound natural. He refers to "extraordinary taxes," like they were HUGE, but in the next sentence it becomes clear he had meant the word in the legalistic sense of "extra-ordinary," as in ad-hoc. The listener is repeatedly thrown off-course and has to catch back up.

On the other hand, writing the lecture out hasn't contributed structure or coherence. He jumps back and fourth between times and subjects, introduces big thoughts only to abandon them, fails to wrap up themes or tie events back to his central ideas.

In short, I couldn't finish it. I got to the opening of global shipping lanes and jumped ship.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • 27-10-16

Good content, tough to listen

If you're going to invest this kind of time into a subject you are obviously interested in it or at the very least, you are curious about it. In that regard, the audio book is interesting and educational. The narrator is tough to listen to. so many mistakes and miscues. How can The Great Courses not edit their audio books? Very disappointing as it took away from the content.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • George H.
  • 19-09-16

Wish I'd Taken This Class As an Undergrad!

Any additional comments?

Excellent introductory survey. The half-hour lecture format limits in-depth discussions, but the author packs a lot into each session. Some coverage of non-Euro cultures such as China and Japan as well as the expected chapters on the textile industry, Industrial Revolution, Finance Capitalism, etc.
This is an inspiring undergrad-level course I wish had been offered when i was in school.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Elle
  • 02-06-17

It took me a LONG TIME to finish

It's a very general overview of history to illustrate some major economic terms and concepts as well as discuss how important economies of history were developed and maintained. It definitely overlaps with other history books I've read like The Silk Roads and that's a good thing. It just covers a broad time frame from colonialism to the computer age chapter by chapter. Interesting, but you may want to give up halfway through.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • CollegeKidReviews
  • 28-11-16

Studying computer science

As a computer science student I want to know more about the decisions that brought our economic system to its current state. This book is a great early step.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Cliente de Kindle
  • 27-10-16

Magnificent

This is an extraordinary history of the World. It is much more than an Economic History. It has Political, Social and Racial insights.

One of the best books. I'm listening to it again!!!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • P. Smith
  • 12-01-17

Great Courses...NOT!

What would have made An Economic History of the World since 1400 better?

Actually discussing some economics. This author seems not to have any desire to discuss anything but preaching the dogma of Keynesian theory

What do you think your next listen will be?

No idea, but non fiction

What three words best describe Professor Donald J. Harreld’s performance?

Biased, boring, simplistic

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Anger, disappointment

Any additional comments?

So much lacking. So much misinformation. Example: he righty states that the British starved the Indian subcontinent for their cash crops, but when they did the same to the Irish, he blames the Irish, not mentioning that there was plenty of food to feed the Irish but it was shipped back to England to make whiskey and rye. nor that the British. we're determined to depopulate Ireland. he seems never to have heard of many of The economists of the 19th and twentieth century, Schopenhauer, Von Mises, Von Hayek, Rothbard, etc. These economists don't fit his world view that governments should control all things economic. he lauds the Soviet Union for its " progressive" economics, failing to mention the millions deliberately starved to death by these policies.
I have been listening to great courses for at least 30 years, since the days of cassette tapes. Never before have I been completely disappointed. this is NOT a great course. This's is not even a mediocre course. this is economic brainwashing 101

23 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 16-06-17

Economics fueled by Innovation & Invention

Any additional comments?

An enlightening, informative and enjoyable listen for anyone interested in what makes the world go around - or at least a big cog in the machine that makes it turn. Presented in a clear and concise format that is chronological and easy to follow. The narration by Prof. Herrald fits the topic well.

He begins with a bit of pre-history that leads up to 1400 so we understand the mind set of people at the time vis a vis money, trade & power. Then Prof. Herrald leads us on a journey that marks the major innovations that disrupted, transplanted or changed the major centers of trade & finance around the world. He identifies the reasons why some failed (mostly for lack of ability to adapt to new technologies) while others thrived and grew.

Worth noting is that it is not so much a history of economics as a history of how innovation & technology have driven change in human prosperity over the last 2000+ years. I would have loved more on how wealth (and desire for it) influenced actions. That is likely an entire course on its own.

This is one of the better TGCs I've had the opportunity to listen in on. If you are interested in the history of economics or technology this is a good primer.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • buddy
  • 10-12-16

Should be a required history class

The material in this book is outstanding. it provides a great framework for world history from the 1400s. As such it should be a first history book to read. As the title says this is a great course. It is not dramatic. But I couldn't stop listening to it because of the depth of the subject material.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 29-10-16

great book

learned more about economics from this book than i did in my 4 years studying econ in college

5 of 6 people found this review helpful