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The Cambridge History of "Capitalism"


  • Peter Temin


This review essay of the two-volume Cambridge History of Capitalism (2014), edited by Larry Neal and Jeffrey G. Williamson, is divided into three parts. First, I describe three chapters from the second volume that I recommend for all economists to add depth to their understanding of the world economy today. Robert C. Allen analyzes the world distribution of income; Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung discuss the history of business groups; and Peter Lindert surveys private and public programs to help the poor. In each case, they analyze historical backgrounds that illuminate current issues. Second, I criticize the definition of capitalism used in these volumes as too expansive to be useful. I argue that this definition mars the essays in first volume by stimulating a fruitless search for capitalism in the millennium before the Industrial Revolution. Third, I describe the essays in this reference work starting from the most recent and ending with those about antiquity.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Temin, 2014. "The Cambridge History of "Capitalism"," NBER Working Papers 20658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20658
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
    2. Allen, Robert C., 2011. "Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199596652.
    3. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, December.
    4. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
    5. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez‐De‐Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 1999. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 471-517, April.
    6. Temin, Peter, 1980. "Modes of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 175-195, June.
    7. repec:hrv:faseco:30747162 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Wassily Leontief, 1963. "When should History be written backwards?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 16(1), pages 1-8, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N14 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: 1913-
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
    • P12 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Capitalist Enterprises

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