This clearly written and engrossing book presents a global narrative of the origins of the modern world from 1400 to the present. Unlike most studies, which assume that the "rise of the West" is the story of the coming of the modern world, this history, drawing upon new scholarship on Asia, Africa, and the New World, constructs a story in which those parts of the world play major roles. Robert B. Marks defines the modern world as one marked by industry, the nation state, interstate warfare, a large and growing gap between the wealthiest and poorest parts of the world, and an escape from "the biological old regime." He explains its origins by emphasizing contingencies (such as the conquest of the New World); the broad comparability of the most advanced regions in China, India, and Europe; the reasons why England was able to escape from common ecological constraints facing all of those regions by the 18th century; and a conjuncture of human and natural forces that solidified a gap between the industrialized and non-industrialized parts of the world.
Now in a new edition that brings the saga of the modern world to the present, The Origins of the Modern World considers how and why the United States emerged as a world power in the twentieth century and became the sole superpower by the twenty-first century. Once again arguing that the rise of the United States to global hegemon was contingent, not inevitable, Marks also points to the resurgence of Asia and the vastly changed relationship of humans to the environment that may, in the long run, overshadow any political and economic milestones of the past hundred years.
"Marks is eminently well-qualified to bring Asia to the front of the story about the origins of the modern world [...] Inspired mostly through the work of André Gunder Frank and Ken Pomeranz, Marks writes a world history survey that is very useful for locating the place of China and India in the construction of the modern world."
– Adrian Carton; Education About Asia
"The Origins of the Modern World aims at the undergraduate student [...] but any teacher who has struggled with the question, 'When did American Civilization begin?' will see other applications. Inexpensive enough to consider as a supplemental reading requirement in a traditional Atlantic History class or even for an American History survey, this well designed textbook will orient students toward broader awareness, both historically and within their own world."
– Joe Petrulionis; U.S. Intellectual History
"This is a splendid book that [...] brings together the very latest scholarship to provide a highly readable and erudite account of world history over the last half a millennium [...] I thus thoroughly recommend this book."
– James Beattie, University of Waikato; New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies
"By far the best of the current world history books on the market. Its main strengths lie in its non-Eurocentric viewpoint, its clear narrative, and its brevity. I would (and have) unreservedly recommended the book to colleagues teaching in the field, as well as to others seeking a quick introduction to the history of the world."
– Sarah Kovner, University of Florida
"A lucid, accessible explanation of the interaction of world regions and the construction of globalization. A valuable work for undergraduates."
– Martin Anderson, Dominican University
"I love this book – and more importantly, students do as well. Nothing beats it for putting global perspectives on the table in a readable and intelligent way."
– Thomas Saylor, Concordia University
"In my world history class from the Mongols to the present, I use The Origins of the Modern World, which students love. They enjoy the brevity of the book, as well as its clear and provocative thesis. It's also nice from a teaching point of view, since Marks uses footnotes and models the sort of writing we expect from students."
– Bram Hubbell, Friends Seminary
"A very useful tool for world history courses, undergraduate and graduate, as well as offering new concepts for scholars still locked in rigid territorial or national studies [...] The composition in this concise book is clear and topics are interestingly presented, while the source references make it useful for classroom research projects [...] A helpful account of the principles and organization of trade in world history, written from a global perspective.
Chapter 1 The Material and Trading Worlds, circa 1400
Chapter 2 Starting with China
Chapter 3 Empires, States, and the New World, 1500-1775
Chapter 4 The Industrial Revolution and Its Consequences, 1750-1850
Chapter 5 The Gap
Chapter 6 The Great Departure
Chapter 7 Conclusion: Change and Continuities
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Robert B. Marks is Richard and Billie Deihl Professor of History at Whittier College.