The best 29 Economic History books

Uncover the fascinating story of economic history with this thoughtfully curated book list. From the rise and fall of empires to the birth of modern capitalism, these titles explore the forces and individuals that have shaped our economic systems.
Gain insights into pivotal moments, such as the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, and understand the impact they had on societies worldwide. Whether you're a history buff or simply interested in understanding the roots of our economic world, this collection will provide a captivating journey through time.

The best 29 Economic History books
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1
Economic History Books: Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Too Big to Fail

Andrew Ross Sorkin
The Inside Story of how Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves
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What's Too Big to Fail about?

Too Big to Fail (2009) draws you into the heart of the 2008 financial crisis, revealing the high-stakes decisions and power struggles that shaped the world's economic landscape at that time. This gripping narrative untangles a complex web of financial intrigue, and will help you understand the forces that drove one of the most tumultuous periods in financial history.

 

Who should read Too Big to Fail?

  • Finance professionals interested in economic crisis insights
  • History buffs exploring twenty-first-century financial events
  • Business students studying real-world corporate strategy

What's A Brief History of Neoliberalism about?

A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey provides a critical analysis of the rise and spread of neoliberalism as an economic and political ideology. The book explores how neoliberal policies have shaped our world, from deregulation and privatization to the widening gap between the rich and the poor. It offers a thought-provoking perspective on the consequences of embracing free market principles.

Who should read A Brief History of Neoliberalism?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the historical context and impact of neoliberalism
  • Academics, students, and researchers in economics, political science, and sociology
  • Activists and policymakers seeking to challenge and reform neoliberal policies

3
Economic History Books: Global Capitalism by Jeffry A. Frieden

Global Capitalism

Jeffry A. Frieden

What's Global Capitalism about?

Global Capitalism by Jeffry A. Frieden provides a deep analysis of the development and impact of capitalism on a global scale. It delves into the historical, political, and economic factors that have shaped the modern capitalist system, offering valuable insights into its strengths, weaknesses, and potential future challenges. A must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complex forces driving the world economy.

Who should read Global Capitalism?

  • Students and academics studying economics, political science, or international relations
  • Business professionals seeking to understand the interconnectedness of global markets
  • Readers interested in the historical and ongoing impact of capitalism on societies around the world

4
Economic History Books: Devil Take the Hindmost by Edward Chancellor

Devil Take the Hindmost

Edward Chancellor

What's Devil Take the Hindmost about?

Devil Take the Hindmost by Edward Chancellor is a comprehensive and engaging account of financial speculation throughout history. From tulip mania in 17th century Holland to the dot-com bubble of the late 20th century, Chancellor explores the psychological and economic factors that drive individuals and societies to take reckless risks in pursuit of wealth. This thought-provoking book challenges conventional wisdom about financial markets and offers valuable insights into the recurring patterns of speculative excess.

Who should read Devil Take the Hindmost?

  • Individuals interested in the history of financial markets and speculation
  • Investors looking to understand the psychological factors driving market bubbles and crashes
  • Anyone seeking to improve their awareness of the risks and pitfalls of investing

5
Economic History Books: The Great Crash 1929 by John Glabraith, John Kenneth Galbraith

The Great Crash 1929

John Glabraith, John Kenneth Galbraith

What's The Great Crash 1929 about?

> "The Great Crash 1929" is a compelling analysis by John Kenneth Galbraith that delves into the events leading up to the infamous stock market crash of 1929. Galbraith offers a critical examination of the speculative euphoria and irrational exuberance that characterized the era, shedding light on the underlying causes and systemic failures that precipitated the economic collapse. With a blend of sharp insight and engaging storytelling, this book provides valuable lessons about the perils of unchecked greed and the importance of financial regulation.

Who should read The Great Crash 1929?

  • Anyone interested in learning about the causes and consequences of financial crashes
  • Investors and financial professionals looking to gain historical insight into market volatility
  • Economists and scholars studying the dynamics of speculative bubbles

What's The Wages of Destruction about?

The Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze offers a comprehensive analysis of the economic forces that underpinned the Third Reich’s rise and fall. Through meticulous research and insightful observations, the book explores how Hitler’s aggressive economic policies ultimately led to the destruction of Germany and the devastation of Europe during World War II. A thought-provoking read for anyone interested in understanding the true cost of war.

Who should read The Wages of Destruction?

  • History enthusiasts seeking a deeper understanding of World War II
  • Those interested in the economic factors behind Nazi Germany's rise and fall
  • Academics and students studying 20th-century European history or economics

7
Economic History Books: Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon

Empire of Wealth

John Steele Gordon

What's Empire of Wealth about?

Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon explores the economic history of the United States, tracing its rise from a colonial backwater to a global superpower. Through engaging storytelling and insightful analysis, Gordon reveals how the pursuit of wealth has shaped American society and influenced its place in the world. A fascinating read for anyone interested in the intersection of economics and history.

Who should read Empire of Wealth?

  • People interested in the history of economic development
  • Entrepreneurs and business leaders looking for insights into wealth creation
  • Readers curious about the impact of capitalism on society

What's Before the Industrial Revolution about?

Before the Industrial Revolution by Carlo M. Cipolla delves into the economic and social conditions of pre-industrial Europe. Through meticulous research and analysis, the book explores the factors that led to the eventual shift from agrarian economies to industrialized societies. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the world before the transformative changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Who should read Before the Industrial Revolution?

  • Individuals interested in learning about the economic and social conditions before the Industrial Revolution
  • History enthusiasts seeking a deeper understanding of pre-industrial Europe
  • Students and scholars studying economic history and the transition to industrialization

9
Economic History Books: Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein

Against the Gods

Peter L. Bernstein

What's Against the Gods about?

Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein challenges the age-old belief in fate and providence by delving into the history of risk and probability. From ancient civilizations to modern financial markets, Bernstein explores how humanity has sought to understand and control uncertainty. With engaging storytelling and insightful analysis, the book offers a fresh perspective on our relationship with risk and the power of rational thinking.

Who should read Against the Gods?

  • Individuals interested in understanding and managing risk in their personal or professional lives
  • Readers who enjoy exploring the history and psychology of financial markets
  • Entrepreneurs and business leaders looking to make informed and strategic decisions

10
Economic History Books: Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles P. Kindleberger

Manias, Panics, and Crashes

Charles P. Kindleberger

What's Manias, Panics, and Crashes about?

Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles P. Kindleberger explores the history of financial crises and their underlying causes. Drawing on extensive research, the book provides insights into the patterns and behaviors that lead to market instability. It offers valuable lessons for investors, policymakers, and anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of financial markets.

Who should read Manias, Panics, and Crashes?

  • Investors and traders looking to understand the history and psychology behind market crashes
  • Financial professionals seeking insights into speculative bubbles and their aftermath
  • Economists and students studying the impact of irrational behavior on financial markets

11
Economic History Books: Globalists by Quinn Slobodian

Globalists

Quinn Slobodian

What's Globalists about?

Globalists by Quinn Slobodian delves into the history and influence of the globalist movement. It explores how a group of economists and intellectuals shaped the world through their vision of a borderless, free-market economy. This thought-provoking book raises important questions about the power dynamics and consequences of globalism.

Who should read Globalists?

  • Individuals seeking to understand the history and impact of neoliberalism on global politics and economics
  • Readers interested in the intellectual and ideological foundations of globalization
  • Professionals in the fields of economics, international relations, and political science

12
Economic History Books: Misbehaving by Richard H. Thaler

Misbehaving

Richard H. Thaler

What's Misbehaving about?

Misbehaving (2015) by Richard H. Thaler challenges the traditional economic theory by exploring the irrational behaviors of individuals and the impact they have on decision-making. Through engaging anecdotes and insightful analysis, Thaler offers a new perspective on economics and provides practical advice for understanding and influencing human behavior.

Who should read Misbehaving?

  • Individuals who are curious about insights from behavioral economics
  • Professionals looking to better understand and anticipate human behavior in business and decision-making
  • Readers who enjoy engaging and thought-provoking stories with practical implications

13
Economic History Books: The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner

The Worldly Philosophers

Robert L. Heilbroner

What's The Worldly Philosophers about?

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner is a thought-provoking exploration of the lives and ideas of the great economic thinkers. From Adam Smith to Karl Marx, the book delves into their theories and how they have shaped our understanding of the world. It offers a fascinating look at the history of economics and its impact on society.

Who should read The Worldly Philosophers?

  • Individuals with a curiosity about the history and development of economic ideas
  • Students and academics studying economics, political science, or related fields
  • Readers seeking a deeper understanding of how economic theories have shaped the modern world

What's Discrimination and Disparities about?

Discrimination and Disparities by Thomas Sowell challenges common misconceptions about economic and social disparities. Through rigorous analysis and compelling evidence, Sowell explores how factors such as culture, geography, and human capital play a significant role in shaping unequal outcomes. This thought-provoking book offers a fresh perspective on a complex and often misunderstood issue.

Who should read Discrimination and Disparities?

  • Individuals who want to understand the complex factors behind economic and social disparities
  • Readers who are open to challenging their preconceived notions and expanding their perspectives
  • Professionals in fields such as economics, sociology, and public policy

What's The Rise and Fall of American Growth about?

The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon explores the remarkable period of economic expansion in the United States from 1870 to 1970, and analyzes the factors that drove it. Gordon argues that this era of unprecedented growth was fueled by a unique set of innovations and advancements, and that future economic progress is unlikely to reach the same levels. He delves into the impact of technological change, demographic shifts, and productivity growth, offering valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the American economy.

Who should read The Rise and Fall of American Growth?

  • Readers interested in understanding the historical and future trends of economic growth in the United States
  • Individuals seeking insights into the factors that drive innovation and productivity
  • Those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the American economy

16
Economic History Books: A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark

A Farewell to Alms

Gregory Clark

What's A Farewell to Alms about?

A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark challenges traditional ideas about the nature of poverty and economic development. Through a detailed historical and economic analysis, the book argues that the key to understanding the wealth and poverty of nations lies in the unique social and cultural evolution of different societies. It offers fascinating insights into the forces that have shaped our world and the potential paths for global economic progress.

Who should read A Farewell to Alms?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the historical and economic forces that have shaped the modern world
  • Readers who enjoy thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating non-fiction books
  • Students or professionals in the fields of economics, sociology, or economic history

17

What's The Great Transformation about?

The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi is a groundbreaking book that examines the societal and economic changes brought about by the rise of market economies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Polanyi argues that the commodification of land, labor, and money led to the disintegration of traditional social structures and the degradation of human well-being. He calls for a reevaluation of the role of the economy in society and offers insights into the potential consequences of unregulated markets.

Who should read The Great Transformation?

  • Readers interested in understanding the historical and contemporary challenges of capitalism
  • Individuals curious about the social and economic impacts of free market ideology
  • Those seeking a critical analysis of the relationship between economy, society, and politics

What's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds about?

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay delves into the world of irrational behavior and mass hysteria. With a focus on historical events such as financial bubbles, witch hunts, and superstitions, the book explores how the human mind can be susceptible to folly and deception, shedding light on the collective madness that has shaped societies throughout history.

Who should read Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds?

  • Curious individuals seeking to understand the psychology behind mass hysteria and delusions
  • Investors looking to recognize and avoid financial bubbles and speculative manias
  • History enthusiasts interested in exploring past examples of groupthink and irrational behavior

19
Economic History Books: Money Changes Everything by William N. Goetzmann

Money Changes Everything

William N. Goetzmann

What's Money Changes Everything about?

Money Changes Everything by William N. Goetzmann explores the history of finance and its profound impact on human civilization. From ancient times to the modern era, the book delves into how money and financial systems have shaped societies, economies, and even the course of world events. It offers a thought-provoking perspective on the power and influence of money in our lives.

Who should read Money Changes Everything?

  • Anyone looking to understand the history and impact of money and finance
  • Individuals curious about the role of money in shaping societies and economies
  • Readers interested in the intersection of finance, culture, and human behavior

What's The Enlightened Economy about?

The Enlightened Economy by Joel Mokyr explores the impact of ideas and knowledge on economic development during the Industrial Revolution. Mokyr argues that the spread of Enlightenment thinking and the rise of scientific knowledge played a crucial role in driving technological innovation and economic growth. This thought-provoking book challenges traditional economic theories and offers a new perspective on the forces that shaped the modern economy.

Who should read The Enlightened Economy?

  • Individuals interested in the history and development of the modern economy
  • Entrepreneurs and business leaders looking for insights into innovation and progress
  • Students and academics studying economic history or the impact of ideas on economic growth

21
Economic History Books: The Great Divergence by Kenneth Pomeranz

The Great Divergence

Kenneth Pomeranz

What's The Great Divergence about?

The Great Divergence by Kenneth Pomeranz explores the economic and social changes that led to the rise of the West and the divergence between Western Europe and East Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Through a careful analysis of historical data and economic theories, Pomeranz challenges the traditional narrative and offers a new perspective on this pivotal period in world history.

Who should read The Great Divergence?

  • Readers interested in understanding the historical roots of global economic inequality
  • Individuals seeking insights into the factors that led to the rise of the West and the decline of other civilizations
  • Academic researchers and students studying the dynamics of economic development and divergence

22
Economic History Books: Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang

Bad Samaritans

Ha-Joon Chang

What's Bad Samaritans about?

Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang challenges the belief that free market policies are the only way for developing countries to succeed. Through a compelling blend of economic history, theory, and real-world examples, Chang argues that the rich and powerful nations often impose harmful policies on the developing world, hindering their economic growth. A thought-provoking book that provides a fresh perspective on global economics.

Who should read Bad Samaritans?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the realities of global trade and economic development
  • Readers seeking an alternative perspective to mainstream economic theories
  • Those who want to challenge their assumptions about the benefits of free market capitalism

23
Economic History Books: The Prize by Daniel Yergin

The Prize

Daniel Yergin

What's The Prize about?

The Prize by Daniel Yergin is a comprehensive history of the global oil industry. It explores the geopolitical, economic, and social impact of oil from the 19th century to the present day. Yergin delves into the personalities, companies, and nations that shaped this vital resource, offering valuable insights into its influence on world events.

Who should read The Prize?

  • Anyone interested in the history and impact of the oil industry
  • Professionals working in the energy sector
  • Readers looking for a comprehensive and well-researched exploration of geopolitics and economics related to oil

24
Economic History Books: Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, Amartya Kumar Sen

Development as Freedom

Amartya Sen, Amartya Kumar Sen

What's Development as Freedom about?

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen explores the relationship between economic development and individual freedom. Sen argues that development should be seen as a process of expanding the capabilities and freedoms of people, rather than simply focusing on economic growth. He discusses how factors such as political freedoms, social opportunities, and economic provisions are essential for human development and well-being.

Who should read Development as Freedom?

  • Those interested in the intersection of economics and social justice
  • Educators and students studying development economics or human capabilities
  • Policy makers and activists seeking to promote inclusive and sustainable development

25
Economic History Books: Global Economic History by Robert C. Allen

Global Economic History

Robert C. Allen

What's Global Economic History about?

Global Economic History by Robert C. Allen provides a comprehensive overview of the economic development of different regions around the world. From the agricultural revolution to the modern global economy, Allen explores the key factors and events that have shaped our economic history. This book offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities that have influenced the wealth and poverty of nations.

Who should read Global Economic History?

  • Students or academics specializing in economic history
  • Researchers seeking to understand the factors shaping global economic development
  • Policy makers and analysts interested in learning from historical economic patterns

26
Economic History Books: The History of Money by Jack Weatherford

The History of Money

Jack Weatherford

What's The History of Money about?

The History of Money by Jack Weatherford takes readers on a captivating journey through the evolution of currency and its impact on human civilization. From the barter system to the invention of coins and paper money, Weatherford explores how money has shaped societies and economies throughout history. This thought-provoking book offers valuable insights into the role of money in our lives and the global financial system.

Who should read The History of Money?

  • Anyone curious about the origins and evolution of money
  • Finance professionals and students looking to deepen their understanding of the monetary system
  • History enthusiasts interested in the role of money in shaping human societies

27
Economic History Books: The Color of Money by Mehrsa Baradaran

The Color of Money

Mehrsa Baradaran

What's The Color of Money about?

The Color of Money by Mehrsa Baradaran delves into the history of racial inequality in the United States through the lens of banking and financial systems. It explores how government policies and banking practices have perpetuated wealth disparities between white and black Americans, and offers thought-provoking insights into the ongoing challenges of economic justice.

Who should read The Color of Money?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the history and impact of racial wealth disparities
  • Entrepreneurs and business owners looking to support and invest in minority-owned businesses
  • Policy makers and advocates seeking to address systemic economic inequalities

28

What's Energy and Civilization about?

Energy and Civilization by Vaclav Smil explores the critical role of energy in shaping human history. From the use of muscle power in early civilizations to the transition to fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, Smil provides a comprehensive analysis of how energy has influenced the development of societies and economies. This thought-provoking book offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities we face in our quest for sustainable energy solutions.

Who should read Energy and Civilization?

  • Diving deep into the history and societal impact of energy
  • Understanding the role of energy in shaping human civilization
  • Exploring the complex relationship between energy consumption and environmental sustainability

29
Economic History Books: Nature's Metropolis by William Cronon

Nature's Metropolis

William Cronon

What's Nature's Metropolis about?

'Nature's Metropolis' by William Cronon takes readers on a journey through the development of Chicago in the 19th century, exploring how the city and its surrounding rural areas were interconnected in shaping the modern American economy. Through detailed research and engaging storytelling, Cronon reveals the complex relationship between nature and urbanization, offering new perspectives on the impact of human activity on the environment.

Who should read Nature's Metropolis?

  • Enthusiastic readers who are curious about the intersection of urban development and the natural world
  • Individuals interested in the history of Chicago and its transformation into a major metropolis
  • Environmentalists and advocates for sustainable living

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Economic History Books
 FAQs 

What's the best Economic History book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard Too Big to Fail as the ultimate read on Economic History.

What are the Top 10 Economic History books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey
  • Global Capitalism by Jeffry A. Frieden
  • Devil Take the Hindmost by Edward Chancellor
  • The Great Crash 1929 by John Glabraith, John Kenneth Galbraith
  • The Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze
  • Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon
  • Before the Industrial Revolution by Carlo M. Cipolla
  • Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein
  • Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles P. Kindleberger

Who are the top Economic History book authors?

When it comes to Economic History, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • David Harvey
  • Jeffry A. Frieden
  • Edward Chancellor
  • John Glabraith, John Kenneth Galbraith