Since the earliest of times, human beings have endeavored to uncover the causes of prosperity. History is the best tool that society possesses for identifying and analyzing the factors that contribute to economic growth; yet economic statistics that lend themselves to comparison are hard to come by. Even academics who specialize in individual countries almost never present a set of statistics covering the whole 20th century - and for the previous centuries, the data is even more chaotic. Here, for the first time, the economic statistics of the world are presented in a rationalized format that allows for an easy comparison across countries and through time. Part One analyzes the most relevant ideas and theories that have been considered as causal variables of economic growth. It summarizes these ideas pedagogically and tests them against the historical data. The results of such analyses are highly troubling because they reveal an absence of correlation between theory and reality. Part Two presents a collection of statistics illustrating the development of the world economy during the last centuries. The data was extracted from economic, history and economic history books, from the publications of the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations' specialized agencies, research institutes and country statistical publications, and other books and journals. Analyzing the data over geography and time, Sabillon concludes that contrary to contemporary wisdom, left to market forces alone the economy will not and does not flourish. The factors that cause growth, he says, still need to bestudied with a fresh eye. This orderly and consistent presentation of statistics may be just the tool that helps future economic theorists to identify a reliable path to sustained growth. This analysis of the long-term historical development of the nations of the world is the culmination of a fourteen-year research project funded in part by the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research, the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and by the Geneva Business Institute. * Carlos Sabillon has an advanced degree from the Institute of International Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) in Economic History. His book Manufacturing, Technology, and Economic Growth was published by M.E. Sharpe Inc., 2000.