Why did European societies, rather than those of the Fertile Crescent, China or India, colonise America and Australia, take the lead in technology, and become politically and economically dominant in the modern world? It is one of the great puzzles of modern history and a profound test for any historical method which claims to address such big questions.
In my view, the enormous divergence in human fortunes can best be explained by considering natural resources, rather than biology. Those regions endowed with the largest number of domesticable animals and plants, and with locations or shapes most conducive to cultural innovation,…
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