Chapter 3: The European Miracle and its Relevance
INTRODUCTION This chapter is not simply about my book, The European Miracle, which was first published in 1981, but its ‘relevance’.1 The subtitle of the book is Environments, Economies and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia. In the text I analysed and contrasted the economic histories of these two continents but did not link either history to the present day. As indicated in the previous chapters, I explicitly rejected the idea of ‘relevance’, in that I warned against equating the institutions of the past with those of the present. In 1988 I repeated my belief in the virtues of pure scholarship in a second book, Growth Recurring, which has the subtitle Economic Change in World History. Economic history can help us draw maps of the processes of growth but we should not presume that paths through the forest of long-dead circumstances are a detailed guide to modern routes - the social landmarks have usually changed too much for that.2 The second book supplements and to some extent corrects the first; for instance, it tries to incorporate the Tokugawa Japanese experience into my overall version of world economic history. A little more on Japan’s remarkable early achievement appears in my chapters of a third book, written with Joop Goudsblom and Stephen Mennell, and called The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization.3 These three books contain most of what I have had to say about world economic history. THE ISSUE OF ‘RELEVANCE’ Historical analogies are dangerous....
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