is owned and operated by the Economic History Association
with the support of other sponsoring organizations.

The Cambridge Economic History of the Modern World: Volume I, 1700 to 1870

Editor(s):Broadberry, Stephen
Fukao, Kyoji
Reviewer(s):Carreras, Albert

Published by EH.Net (February 2023).

Stephen Broadberry and Kyoji Fukao, eds. The Cambridge Economic History of the Modern World: Volume I, 1700 to 1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. xvi + 490 pp. £120 (hardcover), ISBN 978-1107159457.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Albert Carreras, Full Professor, Department of Economics and Business, Pompeu Fabra University.


As the first of the two volumes of the Cambridge Economic History of the Modern World (CEHMW), this book covers 1700 to 1870. In title and format it bears a strong similarity to the Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe (CEHME), also co-edited by Stephen Broadberry and divided into two volumes the same way: 1700-1870 and 1870-present. In both cases, there is an explicit attempt to systematically cover all countries and regions, not just the major ones. To stress the universal coverage, the two CEHMW volumes are mostly organized geographically. This volume’s nineteen chapters are divided into two parts. The first part’s eleven chapters cover “regional developments” and the second part’s eight chapters cover “factors governing performance differentials in the global economy.” Both volumes are organized almost exactly in the same way and include useful “Introductions” by the two editors, summarizing forcefully their purpose, organization, and contents.

The worldwide scope is the main success of the two volumes. A group of top-level contributors cover, in a well-integrated and cohesive manner, eleven major world regions, with some subtle differences between the first volume and the second (already reviewed in EH.Net). Volume one starts with a chapter by Stephen Broadberry, “Britain, the Industrial Revolution and Modern Economic Growth”, which sets the standard for all the other regional chapters, orderly reviewing the themes addressed in both volumes. It is the pièce de résistance of the whole CEHMW. The second chapter, by Giovanni Federico and Andrei Markevich, is on “Continental Europe” and closely follows Broadberry’s pattern. The volume then turns its focus to Asia, with “Tokugawa Japan and the Foundations of Modern Economic Growth in Asia”, by Masaki Nakabayashi; “China: The Start of the Great Divergence”, by Christopher Isett; “From the Mughals to the Raj: India 1700–1858”, by Anand V. Swamy; “Sustainable Development in South East Asia”, by Jean-Pascal Bassino; and “The Ottoman Empire, 1700- 1870”, by Sevket Pamuk. The Americas come next, with “The Economic History of North America, 1700-1870”, by Joshua L. Rosenbloom, and “Latin America, 1700-1870”, by Regina Grafe. The book then moves south, with “Africa: Slavery and the World Economy, 1700-1870”, by Patrick Manning; and “Australia: Geography and Institutions”, by David Meredith.

All these chapters attempt to follow Broadberry’s ordered checklist of themes to be addressed and provide many useful figures and tables that summarize high quality previous research. In some chapters the lack of data and the need to clarify the institutional factors oblige the authors to design simpler checklists to address less straightforward cases where failures in state capacity building are a major issue. Even so, the China and India chapters on the start of the Great Divergence fit in well with the theme and the ambitions of the volume. The Japanese experience emerges as an amazing counterexample of the dramatic Chinese and Indian failures. The South East Asia chapter comes surprisingly close to Broadberry’s checklist. North America and Latin America are well surveyed in chapters that focus on the causes and impact of the independence divide, just in the middle of the period under scrutiny. The Africa chapter is focused on the mass enslavement and export of African populations, and a lot has been researched recently that allows for a better drawing of the main facts. The Australia experience follows closely North American developments.

The editors’ dedication to a global approach to the entire 1700-1870 era is clearer still in the second part of the volume. Reviewing the “Factors Governing Differential Outcomes in the Global Economy” would seem a much more challenging task for 1700-1870 than afterwards. Nevertheless, it is amazing how all the chapters manage to provide a truly world history, mostly by focusing on the large regional units displayed in the first part – Africa, China, India, Latin America, North America, Ottoman Empire, South East Asia – and certain smaller countries (in surface or in population) that deserve to be considered individually – Britain, Japan, and Australia. Some continental European countries are mentioned individually, but not many. In this global approach to the major issues at stake, some parts of the world achieve a more central role than usual: China, India, and Africa. They are not footnotes but substantive parts of all chapters. Bearing this in mind we have two chapters on the proximate sources of growth: “Population and Human Development since 1700” (Romola Davenport and Osamu Saito) and “Proximate Sources of Growth: Capital and Technology, 1700-1870” (Alessandro Nuvolari and Masayuki Tanimoto). There are two chapters on the ultimate sources of growth: “Underlying Sources of Growth: First and Second Nature Geography” (Paul Caruana-Galizia, Tomoko Hashino, and Max-Stephan Schulze) and “Institutions” (John Joseph Wallis). Wallis’s chapter neatly complements Part 1 in its comparison of the institutional consequences of the English and Castilian colonizations.

A special chapter, “Consequences of Growth: Living Standards and Inequality” (Jan Luiten van Zanden, Bas van Leeuwen and Yi Xu), addresses and quantifies the trends in indicators of human development – real income, life expectancy and education – in all major regions, with an eye to changes in inequality.

The last three chapters deal with the global economy: “International Transactions: Real Trade and Factor Flows” (Wolfgang Keller, Markus Lampe, and Carol H. Shiue); “Monetary Systems and the Global Balance of Payments Adjustment in the Pre-Gold Standard Period” (Rui Pedro Esteves and Pilar Nogués Marco), and “War and Empire, 1700-1870” (Philip T. Hoffman and Tirthankar Roy). All three provide truly global views on the far from peaceful making of global economic flows.

The first volume of The Cambridge Economic History of the Modern World is a set of top-quality chapters and authors. As there is less tradition of a fine-tuned chronology for 1700-1870, the absence of explicit temporal divides is not a major issue. On the contrary, the editors have taken care of pressing gently all the authors to provide, as much as possible, a common set of time benchmarks for the figures and tables to be more comparable. In a time of renewed grand views of world development, looking for major theories of why the West became richer than the rest of the world, this first volume provides, in a compact format, the best that the economic history of the world that witnessed the Industrial Revolution has to offer.


Albert Carreras is Full Professor in the Department of Economics and Business at Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. With Xavier Tafunell, he is the author of Between Empire and Globalization: An Economic History of Modern Spain (Palgrave Studies in Economic History, 2021) and editor of Estadísticas Históricas de España, Siglos XIX-XX, 3 vols. (2005).

Copyright (c) 2023 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator ( Published by EH.Net (February 2023). All EH.Net reviews are archived at

Subject(s):Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity
Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Financial Markets, Financial Institutions, and Monetary History
Servitude and Slavery
Military and War
International and Domestic Trade and Relations
Living Standards, Anthropometric History, Economic Anthropology
Markets and Institutions
Geographic Area(s):General, International, or Comparative
Time Period(s):18th Century
19th Century