Weidenfeld and Nicolson
May 25, 2000
This book tells the story of the rise and fall of whole economies and nations, the ascent – and frequent pauses – of mankind as the only economic animal, as producer, consumer and accumulator of wealth.
It tells how we have grown from being one species among many on earth, to regard ourselves as the master species. Ten thousand years ago, there were six million of us, living mainly by hunting and gathering. Today there are more than six billion, many with the standard of living that would have been unimaginable to our Stone Age ancestors.
And yet it is not a straightforward story of ‘progress.’ Man’s economic advance has occurred in fits and starts, punctuated by periods of stagnation and, sometimes, retreat.
It is for all that a gripping story of triumph and iniquity and it poses a stupendous puzzle. How and why did it happen? What were the decisive moments and advances? Why was progress so uneven? Was there a single recipe for progress? Have we finally inherited the earth?
Peter Jay reaches beyond the narrow limits of economics for the answers that can explain the wealth of man and the road to riches.
Peter Jay is a television journalist specializing in economic stories, currently as Economics Editor of the BBC.
He has spent much of his life – in the Treasury, on The Times, on LWT’s Weekend World, as British Ambassador in Washington, with the Economist Intelligence Unit, on Channel 4’s Week in Politics and at the BBC – thinking, writing and broadcasting about the area were politics and economics meet; but the long and short-run questions of how self-run democratic societies can and should manage their own affairs to the best possible, or at least avoiding the worst possible, economic results.