Although most of his arguments border on the expected, Gregory Clark?s self-acclaimed ?brief economic history of the world? is a witty and stylish informational read. The author combines Malthusian principles with economic formulas and theories to provide readers with a comprehensible narrative of the development of the Industrial Revolution in England. A Farewell to Alms is organized into three parts that cohesively build upon one another to focus upon Malthusian principles of population, the development of the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent Great Divergence. Clark not only provides well-developed explanations of Malthus? work on population, but also uses a historiographical approach when comparing theories about the origin of the Industrial Revolution. Appearing throughout the book, useful charts, graphs and tables showcase important demographic data in a visually stimulating manner lifting his argument from the page. The author also uses a variety of sources to substantiate his argument: such as wills and parish records, Annaliste style micro-histories and articles from economic or historical journals. True to his subtitle, the author begins with a brief ?sixteen-page economic history of the world? which outlines his arguments. In this section, Clark asserts that the living conditions of the poor in the nineteenth century were worse than their ancient predecessors. In the following chapters, he uses Malthus? work to explain this assertion. Focusing on rates of fertility and mortality, he shows how population growth undermined attempts by governments to help the poor. This is exemplified by legislation enacted to decrease wages which improved living standards causing a population increase. However, some ?Malthusian checks? were in place in Europe to resist this pattern. Late marriage combined with high infant mortality rates in northwest Europe affected some population growth. Similarly, increased urbanization and poor hygiene increased mortality, but this was often counteracted by the influx of rural migrants. Fortunately, high mortality rates produced benefits like the spiking of wages and what Clark describes as the ?downward mobility? of the upper-class which created a bourgeois population. This seems to be a particularly Western phenomenon. In his discussion of China and Japan, Clark shows how the highly disciplined and deeply hygienic cultures lacked a bourgeois class. Social mobility was more stagnant because low aristocratic birth rates enabled their children to maintain status and wealth. It was these important cultural factors that separated the east from west and ensured the rise of the Industrial Revolution in England. Globally, the Industrial Revolution was not as successful as in the West causing the Great Divergence. Clark argues that ?Protestant Ethic? influenced production, which was once agricultural now increasingly industrial, and poorer nations lacked this social initiative. Technology could be given to periphery nations, but capitalist initiative did not exist within the societies. Because of this, the periphery is full of unskilled, error-plagued workers who are too ineffecient to be capitalist. However, Clark ends his book by noting that wealth and productivity does not necessarily cause happiness, but growing income levels have certainly changed the lives of people for the better. Certainly, Gregory Clark?s book is reader-friendly and brief, but brevity can be lacking. His subtitle ?A Brief Economic History of the World? is, perhaps, dichotomous. Clark?s book is not a large-scale scholarly analysis of world economic history from past to present, but it does provide good historiographical insight into one large economic event: the Industrial Revolution.
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