This work takes on an enormous subject—the evolution of world trade over 80 years—and uses commodity cycles to explain a variety of issues, especially the rise and fall of agricultural exports. Steven Topik and Allen Wells do not dwell on comparing their methodology with those of others but instead integrate insights from major economic historians—Alfred Chandler, Alexander Gerschenkron, Douglass North, and Kenneth Pomeranz, among others—and occasionally take a passing shot at theories or generalizations that they dislike. One has the sense that their main target is neoclassical macroeconomics. But the work is generally free of jargon and accessible to an educated audience. Topik and Wells's point is to synthesize a different perspective, one focused on an empirical study of trade rather than shaped by any particular theory. The narrator of the volume speaks with one voice. Despite the multitude of topics, I...

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