From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 31 2003 - 05:27:33 EDT

Project 2001: Significant Works in Twentieth-Century Economic History
Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century

Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, in 3
volumes, New York: Harper and Row, 1981-84, original editions in
French, 1979.

Review Essay by Alan Heston, Departments of Economics and South Asia
Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

Fernand Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism

Fernand Braudel is associated with the influential Annales School (La
nouvelle histoire) that advocated a major break from the dominant
narrative paradigm of the early twentieth century embracing an
approach to history integrating the social sciences with a
problem-focused history. Braudel is uniformly praised as one of the
most influential historians of the twentieth century, but a hard act
to follow. Braudel immersed himself into masses of materials and
emerged with plausible broad-brush stories to tell, teaching others
how to replicate this approach is problematic. While the Annales
School has made only a small dent in the economic history curriculum
in the United States, it has had much more influence on social
history worldwide and on economic history in France, Europe and the
rest of the world. Rondo Cameron (1989, p. 406) in speaking of
Civilization and Capitalism says, "it contains a wealth of factual
information, mostly correct, but the brilliance of its author's
rather idiosyncratic interpretation has been exaggerated by the
popular press." Whether one buys the whole quotation, one can
certainly agree with Cameron that Braudel builds very idiosyncratic
interpretations based upon a wealth of information, often very
imaginatively used.

This essay will not pretend to cover the three volumes of
Civilization and Capitalism but rather touch on some broad themes
that have had influence on our understanding of world economic
history. These themes include Braudel's emphasis on the economic
condition of every-man, on a global approach to economic and social
history, and on the process of capitalism and its geographical
spread. This essay will begin with Braudel's uses of capitalism, and
then take up themes from the volumes of Civilization and Capitalism.

Before dealing with capitalism, some background on Braudel's career
is needed. Many consider The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean
World in the Age of Philip II (1966 English translation) published in
France in 1949 as his defining work. Braudel began this research in
1923 at age twenty-one and it was envisaged as his doctoral
dissertation and was to concentrate on the policies of Philip II in
the form of a conventional diplomatic history. Braudel taught
secondary school in Algeria from 1923 to 1932 and then lived in
Brazil where he taught at the University of Sao Paulo from 1935 to
1937. During this period he kept up with developments in Paris
including establishment of Annales in 1929 by Marc Bloch and Lucien
Febvre. The long gestation period of this impressive work undoubtedly
had much to do with how different was the final product from the
original design. Braudel says that he began to see the sense of
writing a history of the Mediterranean world in discussions with
Febvre circa 1927 but that he did not find models upon which to
build. And then in 1934 he began to find quantitative data on ship
arrivals and departures, cargoes, prices and other economic data that
he felt would be the bricks and mortar of an economic and social
history of the Mediterranean. By 1939 he had an outline of what he
wished to say, but he was captured by the Germans in 1940 and was
imprisoned for the next five years where amazingly he wrote the first
draft of The Mediterranean totally from memory. The Mediterranean
focuses on the history of one world region in a wide-ranging
intellectual breakthrough, involving the geographic setting,
transport and communications, urban and hinterland developments,
trade, empires and more political themes.

In 1950 his mentor, Lucien Febvre, asked Braudel, who was then
teaching at the College of Paris, to contribute a volume to a series
on world history. This series was to feature a volume on "Western
Thought and Belief, 1400-1800," that Febvre would prepare while
Braudel would focus on the development of capitalism over the same
period. Febvre died before he could complete his volume. Braudel
succeeded Febvre in 1956 at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
where he headed the Sixth Section, history. Braudel took
responsibility for preparation of what became a three-volume series
and was sole editor of the Annales during its most influential
period. Braudel published the first volume of Civilization and
Capitalism in 1967, and it was translated as Capitalism and Material
Life, 1400-1800 in 1973. Volume II, Les Jeux de l"Echange and volume
III, Le Temps du Monde, were published in France in 1979; volume II
was translated and published as The Wheels of Commerce in 1982 and
volume III as The Perspective of the World in 1984, a year before his
death. (When the three-volume set was prepared, Volume I, Les
Structures du Quotidien: Le Possible et L'Impossible, was a
substantially rewritten version of the 1967 edition and was published
in France in 1979. The English translation, The Structures of
Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible, was published in 1981.
That translation followed the form of the original translation,
Capitalism and Material Life, 1400 - 1800, incorporating new
materials and changes. In the text, Volume I will be referred to as
Capitalism and Material Life.)

A number of centers that focus on aspects of his work were begun
during Braudel's lifetime. Immanuel Wallerstein was instrumental in
establishing the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton University
(SUNY) in 1976. Their journal, Review, begun in 1977, explores a
variety of issues relating to the evolution of capitalism, and the
study of world systems, about which more below. The Fernand Braudel
Institute in Sao Paulo is a think tank that has a strong social
dimension to its studies. The economic history emerging from these
centers is likely to emphasize the impact of capitalism on the social
structures of society and the dependencies involved in the evolution
of a worldwide economy over the past five hundred years.

1. Capitalism

Braudel emphasizes that capitalism is something different from the
market economy, a distinction that should be kept in mind in
understanding Civilization and Capitalism. In lectures in 1976, he
said, "...despite what is usually said, capitalism does not overlay
the entire economy and all of working society: it never encompasses
both of them within one perfect system all its own. The triptych I
have described--material life, the market economy, and the capitalist
economy--is still an amazingly valid explanation, even though
capitalism today has expanded in scope." (-Afterthoughts on Material
Civilization and Capitalism, p. 112) Whether or not one agrees with
Braudel, this is his explanation of the order of the three volumes
moving from the lower level of the daily material life of everyman to
the market economy to the highest level of capitalism. It is a
structure of thinking that is rather alien to trends in economic
research that seek to explain the behavior of households, markets and
business firms using similar economic models, a point discussed
further below.

What is capitalism? For Wallerstein capitalism is a system built upon
the international division of labor in which the core of the
resulting world system prospers, if not at the expense of the others,
at least relative to others. A familiar enough theme from the recent
Seattle World Trade Organization protests. While Wallerstein took
inspiration from Braudel, this is not what Braudel means by
capitalism. Braudel viewed the capitalist economy as in the above
paragraph, namely as something above everyday material life and the
operation of markets. Capitalism takes advantage of high profit
opportunities generated by linking markets into a world economy.
Braudel distinguishes between the world economy and a world economy,
a distinction that is not felicitous, but as one searches for
alternatives, such as "regional economy" for a "world economy," it
seems better to stay with his language.

For Braudel a world economy features a core capitalist city whose
commercial and financial spread may be well beyond national political
boundaries. However, for Braudel there may be several world economies
operating at the same time, and for each there will be a dominant
core city. Capitalism may utilize an international or larger spatial
division of labor but the hegemony of any particular core city for a
world economy will wax and wane over time. Further, Braudel believes
there have been capitalist worlds from the Italian city states or
earlier, whereas Wallerstein's analysis relies more on a Marxian
progression from feudalism to capitalism. Further, Wallerstein treats
the political empires like Rome, the Ottomans or the Mughals as
non-capitalist systems while Braudel would be inclined to see in them
some capitalistic features. He says, "...I am personally inclined to
think that even under the constraints of an oppressive empire with
little concern for the particular interests of its different
possessions, a world-economy could, even if rudely handled and
closely watched, still survive and organize itself, extending
significantly beyond the imperial frontiers; the Romans traded in the
Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Armenian merchants of Julfa, the
suburb of Isfahan, spread over almost the entire world; the Indian
Banyans went as far as Moscow; Chinese merchants frequented all the
ports of the East Indies; Muscovy established its ascendancy over the
mighty periphery of Siberia in record time" (Perspective of the
World, p. 55). Braudel's position would clearly find support in
Mancur Olson's work.

One further point on capitalism concerns its origins. Wallerstein
seeks the origins of the capitalist world system in the feudal
breakdown of the agrarian society of Northern Europe in the sixteenth
century. Braudel is less concerned with questions of origins, but
would certainly place a European world economy much earlier, perhaps
in fourteenth-century Italy. Braudel is equally uncomfortable with
Max Weber and any attempt to tie capitalism to the Protestant
reformation (see Stanley Engerman's essay in this project). Again,
his first line of attack would be to point to all of the developments
in the Italian city states that long pre-dated Luther and Calvin.

One point deserves further mention, namely the emphasis that Braudel
gives to the ebb and flow of world economies over time and space.
There is an element of Joseph Schumpeter's creative destruction in
Braudel's view of the process but with a spatial spin. Schumpeter saw
new innovations involving new entrepreneurs replacing older
businesses along with their technologies and labor force. For Braudel
the slowly shifting boundaries of world economies have two important
implications. First, some areas never become involved with a world
economy and their economic level remains very low. And second, some
areas that were in a world economy, and were perhaps a core city,
lose their place as boundaries of world economies change over time.

2. Capitalism and Material Life

Braudel and the Annales School represented a reaction to traditional
narrative history with its emphasis on major actors, usually
political or economic elites. More problem-oriented social and
economic history has been mainstream for such a long period that
present-day readers are unlikely to see anything revolutionary in
Braudel's work. However, in Volume I the chapter headings at that
time were themselves a statement, beginning at the lowest level of
economic and social organization.

Braudel begins Volume I of Civilization and Capitalism with a
discussion of world population during the fifteenth to nineteenth
centuries, including an evaluation of the reliability of the numbers
and a description of the balance of peoples around the world.
Beginning his study with counting all of humanity, Braudel starts off
with a global view, involving the rich and the poor, and all regions
of the world. He takes on social classifications, like civilized and
barbaric, providing an overview of global social divisions. Public
health receives major emphasis throughout but certainly the
importance of the education of mothers on the health of children does
not find its way into Braudel's treatment. It is a man's world and
although his wife, Paule, was an important contributor to his
research, one has to look hard in Braudel for that half of humanity.

Braudel follows population in Capitalism and Material Life with
chapters on the major categories of consumer expenditure, bread and
cereals, other foods and drink, and clothing and housing. These
chapters, enriched with appropriate illustrations, include the diets
of the poor, food fashions of the rich, the lack of furnishings of
the homes of the poor and middle classes, and the increasingly
elaborate interiors of the more affluent. The treatment of fashion
and necessity in clothing is wide ranging. While much of this is
based on the research of others, it is an extraordinary synthesis of
materials from many sources and it is good reading.

The focus on everyday life in Capitalism and Material Life represents
a concern shaping many areas of study after 1950, a movement from the
study of elites to those of more ordinary people. This entered
archaeology, as excavations moved from the palaces and temples to
remains of foods, bones, and the dwellings of the poor, or lack
thereof. Braudel's emphasis thus fit very well into much Marxian
history and with a view that capitalism grew at the expense of the
lower classes. The following quotation referring to Naples is in his
chapter Towns and Cities, and is from one of several sketches of
cities of the era. It gives the tone of Braudel's treatment of income

"Both sordid and beautiful, abjectly poor and very rich, certainly
gay and lively, Naples counted 400,000, probably 500,000 inhabitants
on the eve of the French Revolution. It was the fourth town in
Europe, coming equal with Madrid after London, Paris and Istanbul. A
major breakthrough after 1695 extended it in the direction of Borgo
de Chiaja, facing the second bay of Naples (the first being
Marinella.) Only the rich benefited, as authorization to build
outside the walls, granted in 1717, almost exclusively concerned
them. As for the poor, their district stretched out from the vast
Largo del Castello, where burlesque quarrels over the free
distribution of victuals took place, to the Mercato, their fief,
facing the Paludi plain that began outside the ramparts. They were so
crowded that their life encroached and overflowed on to the streets.
 These ragged poor numbered at the lowest estimate 100,000 people at
the end of the century" (Volume I, p. 532).

Here in the midst of a description of impoverishment in Naples we
also have imbedded an estimate of the homeless as 20 to 25 percent of
society, a typical quantitative illustration that Braudel uses to
great effect. He also tells us that the rich have the political power
to live in more desirable locations, nothing new there. It is not
surprising that Marxist historians would find much to like in
Braudel, but there is very little ideological in his writings.

In fact, Braudel is much more interested in putting the everyday life
of all peoples in perspective by comparisons of 1400 to 1800 and to
contemporary levels of living. Braudel admired Simon Kuznets' work on
national income but does not appear familiar with concepts like urban
versus rural versus national growth rates, and his career predates
the development of poverty weighted growth rates. But one senses from
his discussions of material life that Braudel would have found these
comfortable constructs with which to work. He also suggests that he
would have liked to use cliometrics in the analysis of his period but
that there were not adequate data. However, Braudel would have
probably wanted to build up social and national accounts rather than
deal with behavioral models.

3. The Wheels of Commerce

It is curious that Volume I devotes chapters to Money and Towns and
Cities, which seem much more the subjects of Volume II, The Wheels of
Commerce. However, Braudel looks at money as an indicator of the
degree of monetization of societies and the complexity of their
economies. And as we have noted, the increase in towns and cities
during the 1400-1800 period meant an increasing number of poor making
their material life in urban areas. On the other hand, this curious
treatment may only reflect the evolution of Civilization and
Capitalism, in which Capitalism and Material Life was fairly self
contained and appeared thirteen years earlier than the remaining

Wheels of Commerce moves from markets to capitalism and society.
Although Braudel does not use the language, he is concerned with the
development of institutions, ideology and social norms. He offers a
justification for employing the term capitalism, noting that it was
not a term used by Marx, only his followers. Capitalism for Braudel
involves not only the use of capital but also its position at the
apex of material life. As discussed, it is this aspect of Braudel
that has had a large influence on those associating the expansion of
capitalism and world systems as necessarily intertwined. The first
chapter of Wheels of Commerce is called the Instruments of Exchange,
by which Braudel means the types of markets in which exchange took
place; it is followed by a chapter on Markets and the Economy. The
two may only be separate because together they are the length of an
average book. Braudel deals with local commodity markets serving
surrounding villages and market towns serving their hinterland, as
well as wholesale and financial markets. Markets for financial
instruments including bourses and exchanges, as well as credit
institutions like banks, are also discussed. Bourses, after the Hotel
des Bourses in Bruges where early meetings of merchants took place,
also dealt in wholesale commodity trade, especially for articles like
pepper, cotton, tea and the like. For Europe the 1400-1800 period
sees the development of exchanges in Amsterdam and London that while
subject to bubbles, also provided a basis for financial
intermediation for even small investors.

In treating the development of markets Braudel gives emphasis to the
geography of markets, and his treatment is often imaginative, though
not terribly systematic. He analyzes the frequency and density of
fairs and markets in England and France. He gives more cursory
treatments of other parts of the world, though both India and China
receive their fair due. G. William Skinner's treatment of Chinese
market towns and cities is discussed in terms of the hexagons of
Walter Chrystaller and August Losch. Here Braudel argues that the
size of the hexagon embracing different size market towns varies
inversely with the density of population (II, pp.118-19). He then
applies this to puzzles in French history about the varying
boundaries of pays, which he argues may well have been due to
changing population densities over time--a rather nice cross-section,
time-series application.

Braudel asks questions about markets that are fundamental but often
not treated systematically. When do wholesale markets emerge? What
leads to the establishment of year-round shops versus occasional
markets and fairs? Why did the number of shops proliferate during the
1400-1800 period? When are peddlers really agents of wholesalers and
when are they petty traders? Braudel concludes that the expansion of
markets was stronger in England than in France, though he does not
probe further into why this may have been so. And he argues in terms
of his view of hierarchy, that the development of capitalism was
interdependent with the expansion of exchange. He also notes that
France and particularly China had administrations that constrained
the expansion in markets and hence the amount of capitalistic

How do markets relate to each other? One way they are integrated is
through the activities of the same firm, most typically in this
period, an extended family firm. Braudel examines these connections
mainly in Europe. The extended family firm was a common practice of
merchants from India, China and the Middle East, some of which are
discussed by Braudel. While he recognizes the importance of business
families in extending the boundaries of any world economy, this also
poses a puzzle in some of the diasporas that Philip Curtin has
described so well.

For example, in Asia, which in 1400 contained more than half of world
population, income and wealth, there was an established pattern of
trade prior to European incursions involving intersections of an East
Asian world economy that was linked to an Indian world economy
stretching from Malacca in the Malaysian Peninsula to Calicut and
Cambay in Western India. This in turn joined with what Braudel terms
an Islamic world economy extending from the East Coast of Africa
through the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Turkey and Persia. However,
when Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut in 1498, it was not the core
city of an Indian world economy, nor is it obvious that there was
such a core city. Vijayanagar was a major South Indian empire at this
time but its ability to expand northward was constrained by the
presence of the five hostile Bahami kingdoms. The Mughal empire only
emerges after 1526. Calicut is itself ruled by the Zamorin, a Hindu
ruler whose state was physically quite small, and who did not have
territorial ambitions. As Braudel notes, the proportion of Arabs,
Indian Muslims, Hindus, and Chinese among the actual merchant groups
and shippers varied over the centuries. Diasporas like Malacca and
Calicut were home or branch office to Arabs, Armenians, Chinese,
Hindus, Bohras, Khojas and similar Muslim groups, Jews, Malays and
others. The activities of these traders seem to fit Braudel's model
of high profit seekers linking smaller markets. However, the claim
that these Asian world economies of the fifteenth and earlier
centuries involved core cities seems strained. Even after the Mughal,
Ming, Ottoman and Persian empires were established, it is problematic.

The remaining chapters of Wheels of Commerce deal with the
development of capitalism and the role of the state in markets and in
establishing monopolies including a lengthy treatment of the
activities of the merchant trading monopolies in Africa, Asia and the
Americas. Braudel's treatment of society is a wide-ranging social and
political analysis including discussions of hierarchies, revolts and
the state and social order. Braudel does not use the terminology,
"social norms," but in a section "Civilizations do not always put up
a fight" (II, p. 555) he certainly explores their importance. He
says, "When Europe came to life again in the eleventh century, the
market economy and monetary sophistication were 'scandalous'
novelties. Civilization, standing for ancient tradition, was by
definition hostile to innovation. So it said no to the market, no to
profit making, no to capital. At best it was suspicious and reticent.
Then as the years passed, the demands and pressures of everyday life
became more urgent. European civilization was caught in a permanent
conflict that was pulling it apart. So with a bad grace, it allowed
change to force the gates. And the experience was not peculiar to the

4. The Perspective of the World

In his very ambitious last volume, Braudel deals with long cycles,
the emergence of various world economies, historical problems in
measuring GDP per person, the colonial economies and the industrial
revolution. It is certainly successful in one of its aims, to treat
the economic history of the 1400-1800 period as a story of the world,
not simply Western Europe. There are rich discussions of Africa, the
Americas, and Asia balancing well the perspective of the colonizer
and the colonized. In his essay on Max Weber, Engerman (p. 5) places
Weber and Braudel, along with David Landes, Joel Mokyr, Douglass
North, Nathan Rosenberg and others as scholars dealing with the
"perceived uniqueness of the Western European economy." Let me close
this essay by arguing that while Braudel has a lot to say about
developments in Western Europe, he did not see a simple explanation
of the causes of growth in the West, nor did he think this was the
mostinteresting question to explore.

The uniqueness of Western European experience has certainly been
taken as the phenomenon to be explained by many economic historians.
Writers like Weber not only looked at European evidence in the
Protestant Reformation but also offered explanations of why the
religions of other societies, such as India, were less conducive to
growth. Braudel is not at home with Weber, nor does he seem to give
great importance to institutions like private property, contract, and
the like. In fact, he does not seem to accept even the premise that
there is something unique to be explained about the development of
capitalism in Europe.

It might be argued that this is because of Braudel's idiosyncratic
view of capitalism. Let me again quote Braudel;

"Throughout this book, I have argued that capitalism has been
potentially visible since the dawn of history, and that it has
developed and perpetuated itself down the ages. (III, p. 620) ... It
would however be a mistake to imagine capitalism as something that
developed in a series of stages or leaps--from mercantile capitalism
to industrial capitalism to finance capitalism, with some kind of
regular progression from one phase to the next, with 'true'
capitalism appearing only at the late stage when it took over
production, and the only permissible term for the early period being
mercantile capitalism or even 'pre-capitalism'. In fact as we have
seen, the great 'merchants' of the past never specialized: they went
in indiscriminately, simultaneously or successively, for trade,
banking, finance, speculation on the Stock Exchange, 'industrial'
production, whether under the putting-out system or more rarely in
manufactories. The whole panoply of forms of capitalism--commercial,
industrial, banking--was already employed in thirteenth century
Florence, in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, in London before the
eighteenth century"(III, p. 621).

Here Braudel strongly sees in his period and earlier the same
business forms that exist today and to which others attribute the
uniqueness of Western European experience.

However, the following quotation perhaps illustrates where Braudel
imparts his own special view of capitalism. He says,

"The worst error of all is to suppose that capitalism is simply an
'economic system,' whereas in fact it lives off the social order,
standing almost on a footing with the state, whether as adversary or
accomplice: it is and always has been a massive force, filling the
horizon. Capitalism also benefits from all the support that culture
provides for the solidity of the social edifice, for culture--though
unequally distributed and shot through with contradictory
currents--does in the end contribute the best of itself to propping
up the existing order. And lastly capitalism can count on the
dominant classes who, when they defend it, are defending themselves.

Of the various social hierarchies--the hierarchies of wealth, of
state power or of culture, that oppose yet support each other--which
is the most important? The answer as we have already seen, is that it
may depend on the time, the place and who is speaking" (III, p. 623).

Braudel has a number of elements of Schumpeter in his view of world
economic history, in particular long cycles and creative destruction.
One of his important insights shared by many others who stress uneven
or unbalanced growth is that world economies have changing borders
and that there are often areas not included in any world economy.
Indian software programmers are writing for Oracle in Bangalore while
other areas of India (and many other world areas) are as yet
unaffected by the information technology revolution. Most large
countries have special development programs for backward areas, of
which many have had flourishing histories, such as natural
resource-rich Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh in India, the seat of
the Mauryan Empire and the birthplace of the Buddha.

However, Braudel departs sharply from Schumpeter in how he views the
capitalist entrepreneur. For Braudel the monopolistic character of
capitalism is the key element of privilege and the link between the
state and society. He says,

"The rise of capitalism in the nineteenth century has been described,
even by Marx, even by Lenin, as eminently, indeed healthily
competitive. Were such observers influenced by illusions, inherited
assumptions, ancient errors of judgement? In the eighteenth century,
compared to the unearned privileges of a 'leisured' aristocracy, the
privileges of merchants may perhaps have looked like a fair reward
for labour; in the nineteenth century, after the age of the big
companies and their state monopolies (the Indies companies for
instance) the mere freedom of trading may have seemed the equivalent
of competition. And industrial production (which was however only one
sector of capitalism) was still quite frequently handled by small
firms which did indeed compete on the market and continue to do so
today. Hence the classic image of the entrepreneur serving the public
interest, which persisted throughout the nineteenth century, while
the virtues of laissez-faire and free trade were everywhere
celebrated. The extraordinary thing is that such images should still
be with us today in the language spoken by politicians and
journalists, in works of popularization and in the teaching of
economics, when doubt long ago entered the minds of the
specialists..."(III, pp. 628-9).

These closing quotations from Braudel restate his view that everyday
material life and operation of markets proceed at one level while
capitalism carries on at a higher level above the others. Further
Braudel sees capitalism as closely related to the political elites of
the world economy in which they are operating. While Braudel's view
of the world economy is shared by many Marxist historians it is also
consistent with the writers like John Kenneth Galbraith and Mancur
Olsen, with whom I sense more affinity.

5. Conclusion

One cannot write an economic history of the world of the last five
hundred years and not at least list Fernand Braudel in your
bibliography. But how well does Braudel stand up today? My answer
would be very well indeed at several levels. Landes (1998, xvii)
introduces his recent book with an account of the inability of
contemporary medicine in 1836 to save Nathan Rothschild, the richest
person in the world at the time, from death by blood poisoning.
Braudel put medical advances and public health practices up front in
Capitalism and Material Life as critical to the improvements in
economic well being of the world in the early modern period, clearly
a theme shared with Landes and many others. He likewise saw the
importance of historical demography to our understanding of
development of the global economy.

Related to these demographic themes is Braudel's concern with how
health and material well being were distributed. He saw the great
inequalities generated in world economies, and thought it important
to describe them. He documents inequalities in both the distribution
of private and public goods and services and sees systems of
privilege as part of past and present economies. And while he would
have liked a more equitable world, this is not a major theme in
Capitalism and Civilization. A major theme that has contemporary
resonance is the uneven development of different geographic regions
of the world, and the lack of convergence of world economies, and
more particularly the persistence of regions that have never been
part of a world economy, or were part of a world economy in the past,
but not at present.

Braudel's distinction between markets and capitalism is probably
least likely to make it into mainstream economic history, yet in many
ways it also has a very contemporary ring as we move towards becoming
one world economy. It is not hard to imagine Braudel finding
analogies in this period for phenomena like "not in my backyard" or
the internet. In today's world of mega-mergers that need support by
one or more nation states, of Airbus-Boeing battles and of Microsoft
anti-trust actions, the Braudel perspective of the world fits
surprisingly well. The importance of being first when there are
declining costs, learning by doing, or other scale factors that
provide barriers to entry into markets are not foreign to the world
that Braudel describes. Often, as in the case of the trading
companies, monopoly was based upon government support as in the cable
industry today, and much of the capitalism that Braudel describes is
related to retaining government support or preventing government


Braudel, Fernand. 1966 (English translation, 1972-73). The
Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II.
New York: Harper and Row.

Braudel, Fernand. 1977. Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and
Capitalism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Cameron, Rondo. 1991. Economic History of the World. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Curtin, Philip. 1984. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. London:
Cambridge University Press.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. 1967. The New Industrial State. Boston:

Landes, David S. 1998. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some
Are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W.W. Norton.

Olson, Mancur. 2000. Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and
Capitalist Dictatorships. New York: Basic Books.

Schumpeter, Joseph. 1942. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy . New
York: Harper and Brothers.

Subject : W
Geographic : 3
Time Period : 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Copyright (c) 2000 by EH.NET. All rights reserved. For permissions,
please contact the EH.NET Administrator (;
Telephone: 513-529-2850; Fax: 513-529-3308).
Citation: Alan Heston, "Review of Fernand Braudel Civilization and
Capitalism, 15th-18th Century" Economic History Services, Aug 1,
2000, URL :

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Sep 02 2003 - 00:00:01 EDT