Waves of Prosperity: India, China and the West — How Global Trade Transformed the World
by Greg Clydesdale (Hachette New Zealand, $39.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan
Greg Clydesdale, a lecturer in business at Lincoln University, has written a comprehensive account of global trade from the seventh century to modern times. The book is a monument to the extent of Clydesdale’s reading, as evidenced by the copious footnotes and a lengthy bibliography.
Clydesdale identifies some key underlying factors accounting for the rise and decline of successive trading empires. Prosperity increases when people specialise, for example, separating the farming of silk worms from the making of the cloth. With specialisation, people become better at their tasks and hence more productive creating surpluses to trade and sometimes the potential for mass production. Specialisation requires co-operation and appropriate infrastructure and hence a degree of political stability with support for, or at least tolerance of, international trade. Successful innovation is a key driver for newcomers (sometimes preceded by imitation) or for continuing dominance, particularly in shipping, navigation, and the means of production. The ability to raise capital is another factor.