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Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Environmental Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century 4ed

by Robert B. Marks Rowman and Littlefield
Pub Date:
Pbk 320 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$65.21
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This clearly written and engrossing book presents a global narrative of the origins of the modern world from 1400 to the present. Unlike most studies, which assume that the “rise of the West” is the story of the coming of the modern world, this history, drawing upon new scholarship on Asia, Africa, and the New World and upon the maturing field of environmental history, constructs a story in which those parts of the world play major roles, including their impacts on the environment. Robert B. Marks defines the modern world as one marked by industry, the nation state, interstate warfare, a large and growing gap between the wealthiest and poorest parts of the world, increasing inequality within the wealthiest industrialized countries, and an escape from the environmental constraints of the “biological old regime.” He explains its origins by emphasizing contingencies (such as the conquest of the New World); the broad comparability of the most advanced regions in China, India, and Europe; the reasons why England was able to escape from common ecological constraints facing all of those regions by the eighteenth century; a conjuncture of human and natural forces that solidified a gap between the industrialized and non-industrialized parts of the world; the mounting environmental crisis that defines the modern world; and the ways in which the forces of globalization stress the economic and political underpinnings of the modern world.


Now in a new edition that brings the saga of the modern world to the present in an environmental context, the book considers how and why the United States emerged as a world power in the twentieth century and became the sole superpower by the twenty-first century, and why the changed relationship of humans to the environmental likely will be the hallmark of the modern era - the Anthopocene. Once again arguing that the US rise to global hegemon was contingent, not inevitable, Marks also points to the resurgence of Asia and the vastly changed relationship of humans to the environment that may in the long run overshadow any political and economic milestones of the past hundred years.

List of Figures and Maps
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Rise of the West?
The Rise of the West
“The Gapa and Its Explanations
Stories and Historical Narratives
The Elements of an Environmentally Grounded Non-Eurocentric Narrative
Chapter One: The Material and Trading World, circa 1400
The Biological Old Regime
The Weight of Numbers
Climate Change
Population Density and Civilization
The Agricultural Revolution
Towns and Cities in 1400
Nomadic Pastoralists
Population Growth and Land
The Nitrogen Cycle and World History
Epidemic Disease
The World and Its Trading System circa 1400
The Black Death: A Mid-Fourteenth-Century Conjuncture
Conclusion: The Biological Old Regime
Chapter Two: Starting with China
The Voyages of Zheng He, 1405–1433
India and the Indian Ocean
Dar al-Islam, “The Abode of Islama
Europe and the Gunpowder Epic
Armed Trading on the Mediterranean
Portuguese Explorations of the Atlantic
Armed Trading in the Indian Ocean
Chapter Three: Empires, States, and the New World, 1500–1775
Empire Builders and Conquerors
Russia and China
Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman Expansion
The Dynamics of Empire
The Americas
The Aztecs
The Inca
The Conquest of the Americas and the Spanish Empire
The Columbian Exchange
The Great Dying
Labor Supply Problems
The Spanish Empire and Its Collapse
China's Demand for Silver
The New World Economy
Human Migration and the Early Modern World
The Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century and the European State System
State Building
The Seven Years' War, 1756–1763
Chapter Four: The Industrial Revolution and Its Consequences, 1750–1850
Cotton Textiles
The New World as a Peculiar Periphery
New Sources of Energy and Power
Exhausting the Earth
England, Redux
Coal, Iron, and Steam
Recap: Without Colonies, Coal, or State Support
Science and Technology
Tea, Silver, Opium, Iron, and Steam
Iron and Steam
Conclusion: Into the Anthropocene
Chapter Five: The Gap
The Gap
Opium and Global Capitalism
Industrialization Elsewhere
The United States
New Dynamics in the Industrial World
The Environmental Consequences of Industrialization
Sources of Global Warming Gases in the Nineteenth Century
The Social Consequences of Industrialization
Factories and Work
Women and Families
Resistance and Revolution
Industrialization and Migration
Nations and Nationalism
The Scrambles for Africa and China
El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
Social Darwinism and Self-Congratulatory Eurocentrism
Chapter Six: The Great Departure
Introduction to the Twentieth Century and Beyond
Part I: Nitrogen, Wars, and the First Deglobalization, 1900–1945
World War I and the Beginning of the Thirty-Year Crisis (1914–1945)
Colonial Independence Movements
The Great Depression of the 1930s
World War II
Part II: The Post–War and Cold War Worlds, 1945–1991
Asian Revolutions
Development and Underdevelopment
Consumerism versus Productionism
Third World Developmentalism
Migration, Refugees, and States
Global Inequality
Inequality within Rich Countries
Part III: Globalization and Its Opponents, 1991–Present
The End of the Cold War
The End of History?
A Clash of Civilizations?
Global Free Trade
Energy, Oil, and War
Does History Repeat Itself?
Part IV: The Great Departure: Into the Anthropocene
Conclusion: Changes, Continuities, and the Shape of the Future
The Story Summarized
Into the Future

Robert B. Marks is Richard and Billie Deihl Professor of History at Whittier College. His books include China: Its Environment and History (Rowman & Littlefield). He is the recipient of Whittier College's Harry W. Nerhood Teaching Excellence Award.