In Robert C. Allen’s Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction, Allen tries to answer the question of why some countries (like those in the west) are rich and others poor. His answer is this: geography, technological changes and advancements, globalization, and economic policies guided by the state or government are the factors that work together to determine a country’s wealth.
Allen uses various examples throughout his book to support this claim. One example is the industrialization that began in Britain in response to globalization. According to Allen, industrialization was able to arise in Britain first because of its conditions that would support an industrial economy: high wages and an energy-based economy. Britain profited from technological advancement, thus leading to industrialization. Not only that, but Britain had a significant supply of raw materials (or at least easy access to them), thus showing the interplay of geography in this case. It was this industrialization that first gave economic power to the West.
Another example that is used in this book is the emergence of North America as a significant global power. Allen argues that America was able to obtain this power after pushing these four economic policies: abolishing internal tariffs within the country, rising tariffs on imports from Europe and other countries in order to prevent the interference of competition, creating banks in order for a stable currency to be created, and promoting mass education. It is clear that America has become one of the leading countries in the West in this regard, despite having a minor role before industrialization.
“Big Push” industrialization, as Allen puts it, is another example that he uses to back up his thesis. This type of industrialization (a sort of a forced rapid expansion of industry) was used by various countries such as Soviet Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and China, but it is clear that it was most effective in Japan....