chapter  2
34 Pages

Trading places: the international economy

Anticipating more systematic theories of globalization, the historians contributing to the Times Atlas of World History (Barraclough 1978) decided that, by the middle of the twentieth century, a period of European dominance had ended and the world had entered ‘the age of global civilisation’. Interestingly, the editor reasoned that this development was economic rather than political or even cultural. Global civilization was not staked out between the emerging American and Russian superpowers, nor was the world being civilized by common understandings about human rights and the environment, or even decivilized by Big Macs and hip-hop. Rather the central events were the formation of the European Economic Community (now EU), the rise of Japan as an industrial power and an emerging and testy confrontation between rich and poor nations. However, the key features of this world economy, the Atlas argues, had been ‘knitted together’ between 1870 and 1914. These were threefold

(Barraclough 1978: 256-7). The first was the development of transportation and communication networks that physically linked together different parts of the planet, especially by railways, shipping and the telegraph. The second was the rapid growth of trade with its accompanying pattern of dependency, especially between the relatively industrialized countries of Western Europe and the rest. The third was a huge flow of capital mainly in the form of direct investment by European firms in non-industrialized areas.