A towering work of history examining the world's most pressing problem--the growing gulf between rich and poor. For the last six hundred years, the world's wealthiest countries have been mostly European. Late in our century, the balance has begun to shift toward Asia, where countries such as Japan have grown at astounding rates. Why have these dominant nations been blessed, and why are so many others still mired in poverty? The answer lies in this important and timely book, where David Landes, taking his cue from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, tells the long, fascinating story of wealth and power throughout the world: the creation of wealth, the paths of winners and losers, the rise and fall of nations. He studies history as a process, attempting to understand how the world's cultures lead to--or retard--economic and military success and material achievement. Countries of the West, Landes asserts, prospered early through the interplay of a vital, open society focused on work and knowledge, which led to increased productivity, the creation of new technologies, and the pursuit of change. Today's new economic winners are following much the same roads to power, while the laggards have somehow failed to duplicate this crucial formula for success. The key to relieving much of the world's poverty lies in understanding the lessons history has to teach us--lessons uniquely imparted in this groundbreaking book.