★ ★ ★ ★
From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives by Jeffrey E. Garten | March 2016 | Harper | Hardcover $29.99
This is the first book to look at the history of globalization through the lens of individuals who did something transformative, as opposed to describing globalization through trends, policies, or particular industries. From Silk to Silicon tells the story of who these men and women were, what they did, how they did it and how their achievements continue to shape our world today.
This is the story of globalization in historical and personal terms, starting with Genghis Khan conquering vast swaths of Asia and to build a massive empire and concluding with the efforts of more contemporary characters like Margaret Thatcher, Andrew Grove, and Deng Xiaoping. Each individual profiled in this book had some huge impact on the way our modern world works.
I knew very little about Genghis Khan, Henry the Navigator, Cyrus Field, or really any of the other people featured in this book before reading it. Each chapter is really a broad summary of each person’s life with particular emphasis on their contributions to globalization, rather than an in-depth biography. But I’m intrigued now by these people and plan to find more books about them, or maybe track down some documentaries or something. The details of their lives must be fascinating.
Of course, not every person profiled here is what I’d call “admirable”… not by a long shot. They were conquerors and capitalists and probably other questionably-virtuous things that start with the letter C. War, slavery, and questionable ethics in general abound in their stories What they all have in common, saints or sinners or something in between, is that they actively transformed the world in irreversible ways.
The book entirely “readable” in that you don’t have to be a historian or economist or whatever to understand the language or the salient points. (See above re: my unfamiliarity with most of the highlighted people.) One of the things I really liked about it was the inclusion of maps. Maps! I mean, I like maps in general, but in this case they really were necessary for me to be able to visualize the spread of each profiled person’s impact on the world.
I’m afraid I can’t personally comment on the accuracy of any of the information in this book because I am not a historian of any kind, but the author is an economics professor at Yale and former international trade official for the federal government, plus he’s been widely published in the topics of global economies and politics… so I’m inclined to believe that what he has to say in this book is probably accurate. Garten is also careful to qualify statements when the historical record is incomplete or when scholars disagree on the details, and I very much appreciate that kind of intellectual honesty.
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Please note: I received an e-ARC from the publisher for review via Edelweiss. From Silk to Silicon will be released March 1, 2016.
- Jeffrey Garten’s official website
- Interview with author at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Publisher’s Weekly review
- Kirkus review
Publication information: Garten, J. E. From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives. New York: Harper, 2016. EPUB.
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.