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Escape from Rome : the failure of empire and the road to prosperity

Author: Walter Scheidel
Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2019.
Series: Princeton economic history of the Western world.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
"In this book, Walter Scheidel provides a unique take on the perennial debates about the rise of the west. His main argument is straightforward and provocative: the fact that nothing like the Roman Empire ever again emerged in Europe was a crucial precondition for modern economic growth, the Industrial Revolution and worldwide conquest much later on. Contra Ken Pomeranz's classic thesis about the "Great Divergence"  Read more...
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Genre/Form: History
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Walter Scheidel
ISBN: 9780691172187 0691172188
OCLC Number: 1089438234
Description: xviii, 670 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
Contents: Part I European Anomaly --
1 Patterns of Empire p. 31 --
Part II Why Rome? --
2 Core p. 51 --
3 Periphery p. 89 --
4 Counterfactuals p. 110 --
Part III Why Only Rome? --
5 From Justinian to Frederick p. 127 --
6 From Genghis Khan to Napoleon p. 174 --
Part IV First Great Divergence --
7 From Convergence to Divergence p. 219 --
8 Nature p. 259 --
Part V From the First to the Second Great Divergence --
10 Institutions p. 337 --
11 New Worlds p. 420 --
12 Understanding p. 472.
Series Title: Princeton economic history of the Western world.
Other Titles: Failure of empire and the road to prosperity
Responsibility: Walter Scheidel.

Abstract:

The gripping story of how the end of the Roman Empire was the beginning of the modern worldThe fall of the Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest disasters in history. But in this  Read more...

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"Finalist for the PROSE Award in Archaeology and Ancient History, Association of American Publishers" "One of the Evening Standard's Best Books of 2019" "One of the Financial Times' Best Books of Read more...

 
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His main argument is straightforward and provocative: the fact that nothing like the Roman Empire ever again emerged in Europe was a crucial precondition for modern economic growth, the Industrial Revolution and worldwide conquest much later on. Contra Ken Pomeranz\'s classic thesis about the \"Great Divergence\" of the 18th\/19th centuries when northwestern Europe pulled away from China and the rest of world in terms of economic performance and overall power, Scheidel argues there was a much more significant \"first great divergence\" in late antiquity which set the stage. Scheidel argues that it wasn\'t until the West \"escaped\" from the dominance of the Roman empire did it flourish economically (unlike China, comparison which will be explored in this book, which despite transformations and setbacks remained a \"universal empire\" for much of it\'s 2,200 year history). Scheidel approaches this \"first great divergence\" via a new take on some central question concerning the life and fate of the Roman Empire: How did the Roman Empire come into existence - did its rise depend on unique conditions that were never repeated later on? Was its fall inevitable? Why was nothing like the Roman Empire ever rebuilt? And did this matter for (much) later developments? He concludes by arguing that the fall and lasting disappearance of the Roman Empire was an indispensable precondition for later European exceptionalism and therefore for the creation of the modern world we now live in. From this perspective, the absence of the Roman Empire had a much greater impact than its previous existence and its subsequent influence on European culture, which is of course well documented in many domains and often accorded great significance. Scheidel does concede that a monopolistic empire like Rome\'s which first created a degree of shared culture and institutions but subsequently went away for good was perhaps more favorable to later European development than a scenario in which no such empire had ever existed in the first place. 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