The Origins of Globalization: World Trade in the Making of the Global Economy, 1500-1800

With Jan Luiten van Zanden. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2018). ISBN: 978-11-08-42699-2

The Origins of Globalization makes the case for the early modern period as the first era of globalisation. It shows that global flows of ships, peoples, monies and commodities between 1500 and 1800 were substantial. The realignment of production and distribution resulting from these connections had important consequences for demography, well-being, state formation and the long-run economic growth prospects of the societies involved in this newly created global economy. Whether early globalisation generally had benign or malignant effects differed from region to region and depended on a host of local contextual factors. In many respects the world economy as we know it now originated from the changes during this period.


‘Here two top historians of the global economy offer a perfect summary of recent findings on how five continents were bound together over 300 years that shaped the modern world. The book is essential reading for any course in modern world history.’

Peter H. Lindert, University of California, Davis

‘Skillfully combining quantitative evidence with an accessible narrative, the authors show how “the changing geography of international exchange” between 1500 and 1800 transformed production, consumption and standards of living throughout the world. This impressive book deserves its place among the best in global economic history.’

Tirthankar Roy, London School of Economics and Political Science

‘This is a remarkable work of synthesis and interpretation. De Zwart and Van Zanden root their account in the latest specialized research while never losing sight of the large questions of global history. Their book is at once an excellent teaching tool and a sure-footed guide to the many debates that continue to enliven the history of early globalization.’

Jan de Vries, University of California, Berkeley

Globalization and the Colonial Origins of the Great Divergence

Leiden & Boston: Brill (2016). ISBN: 978-90-04-29966-5

In Globalization and the Colonial Origins of the Great Divergence I examine the Dutch East India Company’s intercontinental trade and its effects on living standards in various regions on the edges of the Indian Ocean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Contrary to conventional views, I find significant evidence of the integration of global commodity markets, an important dimension of globalization, well before the 1800s. The effects of this globalization, and the associated colonialism, were diverse and could vary between and within regions. As globalization and colonialism affected patterns of economic development across the globe they played a part in the rise of global economic inequality, known as the ‘Great Divergence’, in the early modern period.

Read reviews of the book in Economic History Review, Bulletin for Indonesian Economic Studies & Journal of World History.

Won the British Economic History Society’s Thirsk-Feinstein Prize for Best Dissertation in Economic and Social History in 2016.

Order the book here.

Colonialism, Institutional Change, and Shifts in Global Labour Relations

Edited volume, with Karin Hofmeester. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press (2018). ISBN: 978-94-62-98436-3

This book offers a view of shifts in labour relations in various parts of the world over a breathtaking span, from 1500 to 2000, with a particular emphasis on colonial institutions. How did growing demand for colonial commodities affect labour in the Global South? How did colonial interference with land and labour markets affect developments in labour relations? And what were the effects of the introduction of colonial currencies? The contributors to this volume answer those questions and more, combining global perspectives with impressively detailed case studies.

Open access: here. Order a hard copy here.

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