Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The European Discovery of the Worldand its Economic Effects on Pre-Industrial Society, 1500-1800

Book Cover

Book Title

The European Discovery of the World and its Economic Effects on Pre-Industrial Society, 1500-1800: Papers of the Tenth International Economic History Congress. Edited on Behalf of the International Economic History Association. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart, 1990


Pohl, Hans. (ed.)


The book is a combination of papers presented to the tenth international economic history congress. Whilst covering topics such as European powers and their territories in Asia as well as South America, the volume is limited as it does not pay too much attention to the other parts of the world; for which it cites a lack of sources in the case of Africa.
The volume aims to address themes such as conquest of overseas territory, the effects of this on European economic and social activity (in Europe), as well as the effects on the colonies themselves.

Written in a variety of languages, each chapter examines different aspects of Europe’s colonial expansion as a historical development and its attendant social implications. Giving an economic perspective to the past, it broadens the scope of study and understanding of the advent of colonial conquest and domination.
As it is a volume featuring extensive scholarship and a variety of topics, each chapter offers something unique to the reader; whilst what the chapters have in common is a clearly delineated scope, which focuses on a particular subject and region.

Whilst aiming to be a “multi-continental” volume that has historians represented from a variety of continents (all would have been preferred), the editor admits the problems associated with such a task. Overall, however, the book does contribute to the field of economic history and is a good source of study for individuals interested in the period 1500-1800, especially in relation to colonial expansion.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

This volume takes the approach of looking at distinct world regions in the period 1500-1800 and contributing a historical analysis to the development of markets as well as trade. Written in a variety of languages, it aims to give voice to international scholars and aims to expand the study of pre-industrial society in the period. Citing the conference limitations, as well as the lack of information and representation, the volume is limited in its ability to cover topics on a global scale. Whilst this is the case, the endeavour is indeed notable, with analyses of institutions and their similarities and divergences in, for instance, China, India and Europe, among many other studies that look at intercontinental exchange and the value of materials and metals: spice and gold, to name just two.

Whilst extremely broad and diverse, the volume explores pertinent topics and could lead to more research on the area of pre-industrial European expansion and what it meant for the world.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

Whilst the volume is, as its expansive title notes, a collaborated approach to studies in the field of economic history, it is significant because it covers the economic aspects of a period which created the basis for the emergence of colonial institutions and global trade. Alongside this, concepts of power and the type of world political order can be considered.

Covering key global developments, the volume seeks to address questions and concepts that warrant academic study in the timeframe of 1500-1800. A thematica exploration of the period, the study is a good introduction to the field.

Annotated by Sandeep Singh