100 books like The Great Divergence

By Kenneth Pomeranz,

Here are 100 books that The Great Divergence fans have personally recommended if you like The Great Divergence. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

Xaq Frohlich Author Of From Label to Table: Regulating Food in America in the Information Age

From my list on explain the origins of our industrial food system.

Why am I passionate about this?

People tend to think of food as being simple and self-evident, or at least feel it should be. In fact, almost every aspect of modern food has been dramatically reshaped by science and technology. Something that fascinates me as a historian is thinking about past transformations in our foodways and how they explain the social tensions and political struggles we live with today. My book From Label to Table tells a biography of the food label, using it as a prism to explore Americans’ anxieties about industrial foodways. I found these books to be an excellent primer for understanding the emergence of America’s packaged food economy and its many problems.

Xaq's book list on explain the origins of our industrial food system

Xaq Frohlich Why did Xaq love this book?

Nature’s Metropolis is a rare work that transforms scholarship, yet whose easy flow and engaging tone make it approachable for non-specialists.

Its main arguments —how humans and cities are embedded in nature, the interwoven, strained ties between rural and urban, and how technologies transformed our connection to nature— are guiding themes of my own work. 

Reading the passage in this book about a sack’s journey, on how grain moved from farm to market before and after the appearance of the train in the West, was the spark that lit my imagination on how packaging transformed modern foodways.

By William Cronon,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Nature's Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize


Book cover of Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference

April Biccum Author Of Global Citizenship and the Legacy of Empire: Marketing Development

From my list on empire as a particular kind of politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in empires began as an undergraduate taking a course in International Political Economy. We were asked to view poverty and ‘underdevelopment’ in the historical perspective of European colonization but asked to see development economics as something entirely new. I couldn’t see the difference. I have since become fascinated not just by the world historical recurrence of this particular type of politics, but also why our understanding of it is occluded through repeated framing of global politics via the nation state. Unless we understand this global history we are at risk of misdiagnosing contemporary problems, and repeating historical patterns. Moreover, we can’t build a world that is truly non-imperial without sustained comparative study.

April's book list on empire as a particular kind of politics

April Biccum Why did April love this book?

This book is part of a new genre of global history and provides enough of a historical sweep to acquaint the non-historian with a view that is not dominated by the nation state as its unit of analysis and Europe as the apex of world historical change. 

It’s an accessible work that fills in a lot of gaps in world historical knowledge that often exist because our myths of historical change (like modernization or development) keep us focused on ‘the west’ and ‘the state’.

From my point of view, it’s no longer politically acceptable to be ignorant of history in India, Africa, or the Middle East, by way of example, before European colonization. Viewed through the lens of empire, world history looks very different, and this book shows how doing so is a myth-busting exercise.

By Jane Burbank, Frederick Cooper,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Empires in World History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Empires--vast states of territories and peoples united by force and ambition--have dominated the political landscape for more than two millennia. Empires in World History departs from conventional European and nation-centered perspectives to take a remarkable look at how empires relied on diversity to shape the global order. Beginning with ancient Rome and China and continuing across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa, Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper examine empires' conquests, rivalries, and strategies of domination--with an emphasis on how empires accommodated, created, and manipulated differences among populations. Burbank and Cooper examine Rome and China from the third century BCE, empires…


Book cover of After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000

Christopher Goscha Author Of The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First War for Vietnam

From my list on empires in world history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Christopher Goscha first fell in love with world history while reading Fernand Braudel's La Méditerranée in graduate school in France and doing research for his PhD in Southeast Asia. He is currently a professor of international relations at the Université du Québec à Montréal where he teaches world history and publishes on the wars for Vietnam in a global context. He does this most recently in his forthcoming book entitled The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First Vietnam War.

Christopher's book list on empires in world history

Christopher Goscha Why did Christopher love this book?

You might not know who Tamerlane is, but you should. He was one of the last of the ‘World-conquerors’ in the tradition of Genghis Khan, the man who marched the Mongols from one end of Eurasia to the other in the 13th century. Tamerlane died in 1405 and with him the last nomadic empire of the Eurasian steppes. The Europeans then took up the quest ‘to conquer the word’. But John Darwin tells this story like no one else before him: Rather than starting the story of the European “Age of Discovery” on the bows of Iberian ships crossing the Atlantic ocean, Darwin keeps his readers grounded in Eurasia. He redirects our gaze to this massive continent as we follow emerging European empires as they had to compete with pre-existing ones. Anyone interested in understanding the global dynamics of the early 21st century should read this book with…

By John Darwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked After Tamerlane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tamerlane, the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Manchus, the British, the Soviets, the Japanese and the Nazis.

All built empires they hoped would last forever: all were destined to fail. But, as John Darwin shows in his magnificent book, their empire building created the world we know today.

From the death of Tamerlane in 1405, last of the 'world conquerors', to the rise and fall of European empires, and from America's growing colonial presence to the resurgence of India and China as global economic powers, After Tamerlane provides a wonderfully intriguing perspective on the past, present and future of empires.


Book cover of Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Author Of Shaping Nations and Markets: Identity Capital, Trade, and the Populist Rage

From my list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 2008, I have conducted research on themes related to International Political Economy. I am currently the co-chair of the research committee on this topic at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) and am passionate about making sense of the interplay between material and symbolic factors that shape capitalism and globalisation. Being based in Brazil, I was stuck when the country—which did not have salient identity cleavages in politics—came to be, after 2008, a hotspot of religious-based right-wing populism associated with the defence of trade liberalisation as globalisation started to face meaningful backlash from White-majority constituencies who are relatively losers of the post-Cold War order in the advanced industrialised democracies.

Vinícius' book list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Why did Vinícius love this book?

I love Anderson’s narrative about the formation of nations in the 19th Century and what he calls print capitalism, promoted through books and newspapers. A market organised around the same language fosters both the economy and the very much-needed feeling of community required to organise the state and foster industrial capitalism.

More than four decades after its publication, the book remains thought-provoking as it makes me ask whether a single language suffices to hold nations and markets together.

By Benedict Anderson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Imagined Communities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What are the imagined communities that compel men to kill or to die for an idea of a nation? This notion of nationhood had its origins in the founding of the Americas, but was then adopted and transformed by populist movements in nineteenth-century Europe. It became the rallying cry for anti-Imperialism as well as the abiding explanation for colonialism. In this scintillating, groundbreaking work of intellectual history Anderson explores how ideas are formed and reformulated at every level, from high politics to popular culture, and the way that they can make people do extraordinary things. In the twenty-first century, these…


Book cover of What Is Global History?

Christopher Goscha Author Of The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First War for Vietnam

From my list on empires in world history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Christopher Goscha first fell in love with world history while reading Fernand Braudel's La Méditerranée in graduate school in France and doing research for his PhD in Southeast Asia. He is currently a professor of international relations at the Université du Québec à Montréal where he teaches world history and publishes on the wars for Vietnam in a global context. He does this most recently in his forthcoming book entitled The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First Vietnam War.

Christopher's book list on empires in world history

Christopher Goscha Why did Christopher love this book?

So, what, exactly is this ‘world’ or ‘global history’? Authors slap the two words on their books, universities offer new courses in it, and government officials across the planet now speak of ‘global this’ and ‘global that’. One could be forgiven for throwing up one’s hands in exasperation for failing to understand what exactly these two words mean. That is until Sebastian Conrad published this gem of a book aptly entitled: What is Global History? Yes, it’s a bit academic, but it’s also clearly written, logically organized, and succeeds brilliantly in explaining what global history is and is not without losing the reader in theoretical jargon. If you want to try something beyond the ‘nation’ and ‘empire’, Conrad’s global history is a great place to start.

By Sebastian Conrad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is Global History? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Until very recently, historians have looked at the past with the tools of the nineteenth century. But globalization has fundamentally altered our ways of knowing, and it is no longer possible to study nations in isolation or to understand world history as emanating from the West. This book reveals why the discipline of global history has emerged as the most dynamic and innovative field in history--one that takes the connectedness of the world as its point of departure, and that poses a fundamental challenge to the premises and methods of history as we know it. What Is Global History? provides…


Book cover of From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfavolume 17

Yasuhiro Makimura Author Of Yokohama and the Silk Trade: How Eastern Japan Became the Primary Economic Region of Japan, 1843-1893

From my list on cities, their trades, and world trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the oldest questions is: why are some countries rich and some countries poor? Adam Smith famously answered that it was the division of labor (specialization) and trade in his book The Wealth of Nations. The more you study trade, however, the more complicated the answer becomes. I have been grappling with this question since the 1990s, as a student, and I still do not have a simple answer like Adam Smith. However, I think I have come up with a framework to understand how the economic history of the world developed and I have been teaching that global history in college as a professor since the 2010s.

Yasuhiro's book list on cities, their trades, and world trade

Yasuhiro Makimura Why did Yasuhiro love this book?

This book by David Aslanian features the Armenian merchants of the New Julfa district of the city of Isfahan in modern-day Iran. They conducted long-distance trade between India and Europe and competed against some of the giant corporations of the day such as the Dutch East India Company. The experts of the old silk road trade competed against the new maritime trades well into the nineteenth century.

By Sebouh Aslanian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on a rich trove of documents, including correspondence not seen for 300 years, this study explores the emergence and growth of a remarkable global trade network operated by Armenian silk merchants from a small outpost in the Persian Empire. Based in New Julfa, Isfahan, in what is now Iran, these merchants operated a network of commercial settlements that stretched from London and Amsterdam to Manila and Acapulco. The New Julfan Armenians were the only Eurasian community that was able to operate simultaneously and successfully in all the major empires of the early modern world--both land-based Asian empires and the…


Book cover of Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850

Yasuhiro Makimura Author Of Yokohama and the Silk Trade: How Eastern Japan Became the Primary Economic Region of Japan, 1843-1893

From my list on cities, their trades, and world trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the oldest questions is: why are some countries rich and some countries poor? Adam Smith famously answered that it was the division of labor (specialization) and trade in his book The Wealth of Nations. The more you study trade, however, the more complicated the answer becomes. I have been grappling with this question since the 1990s, as a student, and I still do not have a simple answer like Adam Smith. However, I think I have come up with a framework to understand how the economic history of the world developed and I have been teaching that global history in college as a professor since the 2010s.

Yasuhiro's book list on cities, their trades, and world trade

Yasuhiro Makimura Why did Yasuhiro love this book?

Most people think Europe grew rich through industrialization and free trade. What they don’t realize is that this industrialization was initially started because of protectionism. Prasannan Parthasarathi shows how Britain banned the import of Indian cotton cloth, known as Calico, and developed its own industry. The free trade happened only after Britain succeeded in industrializing.

By Prasannan Parthasarathi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not provides a striking new answer to the classic question of why Europe industrialised from the late eighteenth century and Asia did not. Drawing significantly from the case of India, Prasannan Parthasarathi shows that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the advanced regions of Europe and Asia were more alike than different, both characterized by sophisticated and growing economies. Their subsequent divergence can be attributed to different competitive and ecological pressures that in turn produced varied state policies and economic outcomes. This account breaks with conventional views, which hold that divergence occurred because…


Book cover of ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age

Yasuhiro Makimura Author Of Yokohama and the Silk Trade: How Eastern Japan Became the Primary Economic Region of Japan, 1843-1893

From my list on cities, their trades, and world trade.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the oldest questions is: why are some countries rich and some countries poor? Adam Smith famously answered that it was the division of labor (specialization) and trade in his book The Wealth of Nations. The more you study trade, however, the more complicated the answer becomes. I have been grappling with this question since the 1990s, as a student, and I still do not have a simple answer like Adam Smith. However, I think I have come up with a framework to understand how the economic history of the world developed and I have been teaching that global history in college as a professor since the 2010s.

Yasuhiro's book list on cities, their trades, and world trade

Yasuhiro Makimura Why did Yasuhiro love this book?

In ReOrient, A.G. Frank argues that this current situation in which the West is at the center of the world is a mere blip in terms of global history. Historically Asia was always the richer part of the globe and once again, in the near future, Asia will be the richest part of the globe again.

By Andre Gunder Frank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked ReOrient as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Andre Gunder Frank asks us to re-orient our views away from Eurocentrism - to see the rise of the West as a mere blip in what was, and is again becoming, an Asia-centered world. In a bold challenge to received historiography and social theory he turns on its head the world according to Marx, Weber, and other theorists, including Polanyi, Rostow, Braudel, and Wallerstein. Frank explains the Rise of the West in world economic and demographic terms that relate it in a single historical sweep to the decline of the East around 1800. European states, he says, used the silver…


Book cover of Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China's Rise

Nate G. Hilger Author Of The Parent Trap: How to Stop Overloading Parents and Fix Our Inequality Crisis

From my list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an economist fascinated by the ways that early opportunities shape lifelong success. My interests go way back to the big public schools I attended in Southern California, where I watched some kids benefit from tutoring, counseling, coaching, and other private resources that most kids couldn’t access. I went on to get a PhD in economics, then taught at Brown University and advised Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign on child development policy. After years of research and teaching – and becoming a dad myself – I wrote The Parent Trap to expose the monumental challenges facing so many parents and the solutions most likely to make a difference.

Nate's book list on how self-help isn't a magic parenting solution

Nate G. Hilger Why did Nate love this book?

This book spoke to me because it shows that parents in China are just like parents in America. Of course we all love our children, but we struggle to master the complex information, logistics, and expenditures involved in modern child development. One of the authors has shown that a shockingly high share of children in rural China is cognitively stunted due to infectious worms, untreated vision problems, and under-stimulation. Interviews with Chinese families show how challenging it is for parents to diagnose and address these issues without public support. This book shatters American stereotypes about China, and for me, it confirmed much of what I argue in my own book through a different lens. 

By Scott Rozelle, Natalie Hell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Invisible China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the glittering skyline in Shanghai seemingly attests, China has quickly transformed itself from a place of stark poverty into a modern, urban, technologically savvy economic powerhouse. But as Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell show in Invisible China, the truth is much more complicated and might be a serious cause for concern.

China's growth has relied heavily on unskilled labor. Most of the workers who have fueled the country's rise come from rural villages and have never been to high school. While this national growth strategy has been effective for three decades, the unskilled wage rate is finally rising, inducing…


Book cover of By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World

Scott B. Macdonald Author Of The New Cold War, China, and the Caribbean: Economic Statecraft, China and Strategic Realignments

From my list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane.

Why am I passionate about this?

My expertise in Caribbean and Chinese affairs derives from having an interest in the two regions since college, which was then pursued through a MA in Asian Studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. On the employment front, I worked for 3 regional banks (as an international economist), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Credit Suisse, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, KWR International, and Aladdin Capital Management (as head of Credit and Economics Research) and Mitsubishi Corporation. Since I left Mitsubishi I returned to my two favorite interests, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Scott's book list on beach reads in an international relations hurricane

Scott B. Macdonald Why did Scott love this book?

China experts Economy and Levi wrote one of the more far-seeing books on the internationalization of China’s development and its use of economic statecraft to secure access to strategic resources, ranging from oil and gas to agricultural goods and minerals (like copper, nickel, and cobalt). Although the book was published in 2014, it has held up well, especially in that China’s quest for energy, minerals, land, and water, pursued through a mix of investment, political and military means is fundamentally changing the world. At the same time, China’s resource hunt is also changing the Asian giant, forcing it to adopt to changing global power dynamics.  

By Elizabeth C. Economy, Michael Levi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked By All Means Necessary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the past thirty years, China has transformed from an impoverished country where peasants comprised the largest portion of the populace to an economic power with an expanding middle class and more megacities than anywhere else on earth. This remarkable transformation has required, and will continue to demand, massive quantities of resources. Like every other major power in modern history, China is looking outward to find them.

In By All Means Necessary, Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth. China is now engaged in a…


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