It’s a simple question to ask, but seems impossible to answer: What causes one nation to succeed and another to fail? What exactly are the origins of global inequality?
There are few people who have spent more time trying to answer this question than Prof. James Robinson. Robinson’ first book, Why Nations Fail, was an international best-seller. It laid out in clear and stark terms what the origins of prosperity and poverty really are. Now, he’s written a sequel, The Narrow Corridor, which further explains what ingredients you need to create a prosperous nation.
This volume is a treasure trove of photography from the last 175 years, following the evolution of Vienna from imperial capital to modern metropolis. Like a visual walk through time and cityscape, hundreds of carefully curated pictures trace the developments in Vienna’s built environment and the cultural and historical trends they reflect, whether the urban Gesamtkunstwerk of the 19th-century Ringstrasse or the experiments of “Red Vienna” in the 1920s, when the city had a social democrat government for the first time.
Vienna combines drama and elegance like no other. For centuries the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the stately city on the Danube, has been defined by vast palaces and imperial grandeur—but behind the Baroque opulence, Vienna is also a place of genteel coffee house culture, epicurean tradition, and a heritage of both delicate and daring music, art, and design, from Johann Strauss to Egon Schiele, from Gustav Mahler to Josef Hoffmann.
Sciolino’s keen eye and vivid prose bring the river to life as she discovers its origins on a remote plateau of Burgundy, where a pagan goddess healed pilgrims at an ancient temple. She follows the Seine to Le Havre, where it meets the sea. Braiding memoir, travelogue, and history through the Seine’s winding route, Sciolino offers a love letter to Paris and the river at its heart and invites readers to explore its magic.
In the spring of 1978, as a young journalist in Paris, Elaine Sciolino was seduced by a river. In The Seine, she tells the story of that river through its rich history and lively characters—a bargewoman, a riverbank bookseller, a houseboat dweller, a famous cameraman known for capturing the river’s light. She patrols with river police, rows with a restorer of antique boats, discovers a champagne vineyard, and even dares to swim in the Seine.
The so-called winning of the West is one of the fundamental dramas in American history, and Mr. Brands makes the most of his subject by quoting extensively from the participants’ own accounts. In his chapters on Lewis and Clark, he cites the explorers’ descriptions of the daunting cataracts on the Missouri and Columbia rivers and their reaction on reaching their goal.
In “Dreams of El Dorado,” H.W. Brands has made his job even harder by taking on such a broad swath of western history, from Thomas Jefferson’s seminal purchase of Louisiana, in 1803, to Theodore Roosevelt’s sweeping measures to conserve western resources and landscapes, more than a century later. That’s a lot of history to crowd into just over 500 pages—as Mr. Brands no doubt appreciates, since his own books on Texan independence and the California Gold Rush were each somewhat longer than that.
The fall of the Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest disasters in history. But in this groundbreaking book, Walter Scheidel argues that Rome’s dramatic collapse was actually the best thing that ever happened, clearing the path for Europe’s economic rise and the creation of the modern age. Ranging across the entire premodern world, Escape from Rome offers new answers to some of the biggest questions in history: Why did the Roman Empire appear? Why did nothing like it ever return to Europe? And, above all, why did Europeans come to dominate the world?
In an absorbing narrative that begins with ancient Rome but stretches far beyond it, from Byzantium to China and from Genghis Khan to Napoleon, Scheidel shows how the demise of Rome and the enduring failure of empire-building on European soil ensured competitive fragmentation between and within states. This rich diversity encouraged political, economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs that allowed Europe to surge ahead while other parts of the world lagged behind, burdened as they were by traditional empires and predatory regimes that lived by conquest. It wasn’t until Europe “escaped” from Rome that it launched an economic transformation that changed the continent and ultimately the world.