The best economic history books 📚

Browse the best books on economic history as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520

Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520

By Christopher Dyer

Why this book?

For me, this isn’t a book that I read cover to cover; it is a book that I very frequently refer to when I want information. This is my go-to book when I want to check how much a labourer was paid, and what that money would buy, for example. It is an economic history and, as such, helps you to understand the fundamentals of how medieval society worked and was put together. So you can find out not only about the life of an aristocrat, but about the life of a peasant, free or unfree, and about life in…

From the list:

The best books on medieval life

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Book cover of Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity

Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity

By Stephen Davies

Why this book?

The great fact of economic history is that we all used to be poor, and now most of us are not. 200 years ago, almost 90 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, today around 9 percent does. This is the story of that remarkable transformation and what made it possible. Of course, there are many good books on this, and I have greatly enjoyed for example Joel Mokyr, Deirdre McCloskey, and David Landes, but this is a powerful, short book by a great historian, that manages to weave together economic, political, technological and intellectual factors into a…

From the list:

The best books to make you grateful you live today

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Book cover of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Why this book?

This huge bestseller is a trailblazer on many levels. For one, the author has a keen sense of humor and relates his theories to his history growing up in Lebanon. Taleb is in my opinion one of the smartest people on the planet. He breaks new ground in the analysis of risk by explaining and expanding on the concept of fractal geometry and how it relates to what we know and don’t know about risk. I recommend you read this and all of Taleb’s books.

From the list:

The best books to read if you want to retire with millions in the stock market

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Book cover of Tristram Shandy

Tristram Shandy

By Laurence Sterne

Why this book?

It is a novel and a prolonged non-sequitur about life and worldly existence that speaks to me both as a person and as a professional. I read it in college and was astounded by the psychological depth and whimsy. “A cock and bull story, but one of the best…I have ever heard.” I think of that line from Sterne when I write my own work or read others; 

From the list:

The best books on economic history and testing assumptions

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Book cover of Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

By Carlo M. Cipolla, Christopher Woodall

Why this book?

Cipolla, a brilliant author, shows in this study how economic history and economic concepts can be used to study the past even when they did not exist at the time. Cipolla engagingly explains how economic concepts, even when unrecognized, can be useful tools of analysis. In order to demonstrate this principle, for example, he memorably explains how the clothes used to prevent plague in medieval Europe were effective for reasons totally different than contemporaries realized. Mistaken understandings could still lead to effective actions.  

From the list:

The best books from Medieval European history to contemporary Japanese literature

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Or, view all 8 books about economic history

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