Efficient Frontier
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William J. Bernstein

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been posting much on the Web site recently. There’s a very good reason. For the past three-and-a-half years, I’ve been writing about the history of world trade.

The more deeply I delved, the more rollicking and relevant the stories became:

  • How nomadic herders in the prehistoric Fertile Crescent, at risk of having their heads bashed in while raiding the earliest settled farmers, set off both the first arms race and the first organized long-distance trade.

  • How ancient Athens outran its domestic food supply and became dependent on grain imported through vulnerable strategic straits, which in turn helped trigger the Peloponnesian War and give rise to the modern Western obsession with naval supremacy.

  • How the world’s greatest human cataclysm, the Black Death, was the direct result of long-established trading patterns, and how it yet shapes the world today.

  • How the mastery of the planet’s wind machine in the early seventeenth century produced the first flush of globalization and allowed Chinese barbers to find their way to Mexico City, America’s first Jews to travel from Portugal to Amsterdam to Brazil to North America, and pieces of eight to become the de facto world currency, as ubiquitous then as the Visa card is today.

  • How the world’s first recorded anti-globalization riots occurred not in Seattle, but in seventeenth-century London, and how the Boston Tea Party was really the first American protest against the growing power and influence of the period’s multinational corporations.

  • How Henry Bessemer produced a worldwide protectionist backlash whose echoes profoundly influence the twenty-first-century debates over free trade.

  • Who wins, who loses, and what we can do about the dislocations in today’s increasingly global economy.

The Introduction is available online, compliments of Atlantic Monthly Press. You can also read my interview with the Yale School of Management, Paul Kennedy's review in Foreign Affairs, or John Steele Gordon's review in The New York Times. If this whets your appetite, you will find A Splendid Exchange in stock at Amazon.com and in book stores around the country.

Bought the book? Found a typo? Report it to ase "at" efficientfrontier.com and you will receive a hearty metaphorical pat on the back from the author.

Copyright © 2008, William J. Bernstein. All rights reserved.

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