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With its sustained, rigorous economic analysis and frequently compressed exposition of complex arguments, this taut monograph is a formidable but rewarding read. Rosenthal and Wong boldly tackle one of the most challenging questions in comparative economic history: why did sustained economic growth arise in Europe rather than China? The authors systematically demolish conventional narratives touting the superiority of European political, social, and economic institutions over their Chinese counterparts. They find convincing explanations for Sino-Western divergence in contrasting processes of long-term political development originating centuries before Europe's industrial revolution. Over the course of a millennium, the huge size, prosperity, and relative stability of China's empire conferred significant economic advantages that long eluded Europe's fragmented, bellicose polities. Rosenthal and Wong nonetheless conclude that the costly military competitions that habitually distorted European history had unintended consequences. By impelling urbanization and a demand for capital-using technologies, Europe's constant wars rather than China's long peace laid the groundwork for modern economic growth.
— R. P. Gardella