“A vivid and crystal-clear summary of the very large body of research compiled in the past two decades on the most important question in economic history. Well informed, solidly anchored in historical facts and economic analysis, this book is a must for economics students.”

--Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University


“In our current moment, when many are worried about the future of growth for the environment and the planet, this thought-provoking book by two leading scholars tells the story of how and why economic growth took off, and how it hugely raised living standards, but also increased inequality and misery on the way. This is a must-read for anybody worried about the future of growth and poverty on our planet.”

--Daron Acemoglu, MIT

"Any scholar teaching economic history and wishing for an up-to-date survey of a large and important literature will find it useful to read this book to bone up on the recent research listed in the long and encompassing list of references. Furthermore, they should seriously consider having their students read it for their class. The book is a wide-ranging yet remarkably complete and accessible survey of the Great Enrichment, the emergence of modern and prosperous economies that provide us with a material standard of living that our ancestors could not have dreamed of. How and why modern economic growth occurred when and where it did, and how economists have tried to understand this phenomenon, is the theme of this book. It is written by two of the finest young senior scholars in our field, both with important contributions to the subject matter of this book."

--Joel Mokyr, review on EH.net

Most humans are significantly richer than their ancestors. Humanity gained nearly all of its wealth in the last two centuries. How did this come to pass? How did the world become rich?


Mark Koyama and Jared Rubin dive into the many theories of why modern economic growth happened when and where it did. They discuss recently advanced theories rooted in geography, politics, culture, demography, and colonialism. Pieces of each of these theories help explain key events on the path to modern riches. Why did the Industrial Revolution begin in 18th-century Britain? Why did some European countries, the US, and Japan catch up in the 19th century? Why did it take until the late 20th and 21st centuries for other countries? Why have some still not caught up?


Koyama and Rubin show that the past can provide a guide for how countries can escape poverty. There are certain prerequisites that all successful economies seem to have. But there is also no panacea. A society’s past and its institutions and culture play a key role in shaping how it may or may not develop.

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