Book reviews

Brook, Timothy: Vermeer’s Hat This book starts with everyday items in Dutch paintings of the 1600s – a fur hat, a porcelain bowl, some silver coins – and traces them back across the world. A glimpse into the lives and mindsets of Europeans, Ming Chinese, and others of the era.

Erlichman, Howard J: Conquest, Tribute and Trade I went into this book knowing only the bare bones about its subject matter, world trade and the birth of the European overseas empires in the 16th century, and sadly, I finished it in much the same state.

Ferguson, Niall: The Ascent of Money The companion book to a TV series, this examines several themes in finance – credit; stock markets; insurance; housing markets and more – through a variety of historical yarns.

Ferguson, Niall: Civilization – Purports to be about how six “killer apps” (competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumerism and the Protestant work ethic) allowed Westerners to conquer the rest of the world, but ends up more a combination of trivia grab bag and all-purpose authorial soapbox.

Gordon, Stewart: When Asia Was The WorldA collection of ten vignettes, mostly about individuals (the “merchants, scholars, warriors and monks” of the title) across almost 1,000 years.

Harford, Tim: AdaptThe blurb proclaims, “Tim Harford could well be Britain’s Malcolm Gladwell”, and that is a very apt analogy to describe this book. Harford is an economist and Financial Times columnist, but here he tackles themes that reach well outside the business world: open-mindedness, flexibility, innovation, resilience.

Kaplan, Robert: Monsoon The history and contemporary geopolitics of the Indian Ocean, from East Africa to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, as seen through the lens of the author’s travels.

Landes, David: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

Morris, Ian: Why The West Rules — For Now Human social development (both technological and organisational), as seen through the lens of European, Middle Eastern and Chinese history. Spanning the tens of thousands of years all the way from prehistory to the present day, it effectively picks up where Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel left off.

Pomeranz, Kenneth: The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World

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