Chapter 2: Environment, State and Economic Development in the History of Europe and Asia
INTRODUCTION The subject of this chapter is uncomfortably broad. It requires anyone who tackles it to offer, or at least pretend to offer, a simultaneous solution to innumerable interlocking puzzles in economic history. I would beg to be excused from this enormous task had I not given a hostage to fortune 20 years ago by writing The European Miracle.1 No one can dream of employing primary sources to cover such a sweep of the past as the long-run development of a whole continent, against a background of the experience of other continents. When I wrote the book even the potentially relevant secondary sources were already far, far too large in number for anyone to read all of them. The only hope of making sense of the field was to suggest a model that would incorporate and codify the more plausibleseeming of the available interpretations. What might constitute a satisfactory ‘model’ is however a matter of opinion, and opinions about methods and approaches are often dogmatically expressed. This means that the literature of world economic history ranges from works in which the analytical bare bones are submerged in the flesh of endless minute description to others that contain logical concepts supported by little more than stylized facts. My own approach was intended to be, and remains, a middle-of-the-road one. It was and is meant to contain an economic logic for those with eyes to see, but enough detail, or at any rate enough references to telling details, to ground the work...
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