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THE WIDELY ACCLAIMED BESTSELLER THAT BOLDLY AND LUCIDLY PUTS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DILEMMAS INTO THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORLD HISTORY. "A work of almost Toynbeean sweep... When a scholar as careful and learned as Mr. Kennedy is prompted by contemporary issues to reexamine the great processes of the past, the result can only be an enhancement of our historical THE WIDELY ACCLAIMED BESTSELLER THAT BOLDLY AND LUCIDLY PUTS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DILEMMAS INTO THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORLD HISTORY. "A work of almost Toynbeean sweep... When a scholar as careful and learned as Mr. Kennedy is prompted by contemporary issues to reexamine the great processes of the past, the result can only be an enhancement of our historical understanding.... When the study is written as simply and attractively as this work is, its publication may have a great and beneficient impact. It is to be hoped that Mr. Kennedy's will have one, at a potentially decisive moment in America's history." Michael Howard, The New York Times Book Review "Important, learned, and lucid... Paul Kennedy's great achievement is that he makes us see our current international problems against a background of empires that have gone under because they were unaible to sustain the material cost of greatness; and he does so in a universal historical perspective of which Ranke would surely have approved." James Joll, The New York Review of Books "His strategic-economic approach provides him with the context for a shapely narrative....Professor Kennedy not only exploits his framework eloquently, he also makes use of it to dig deeper and explore the historical contexts in which some 'power centers' prospered....But the most commanding purpose of his project...is the lesson he draws from 15 centuries of statecraft to apply to the present scene....[The book's] final section is for everyone concerned with the contemporary political scene." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times "Kennedy gives epic meaning to the nation's relative economic and industrial decline." Newsweek


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THE WIDELY ACCLAIMED BESTSELLER THAT BOLDLY AND LUCIDLY PUTS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DILEMMAS INTO THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORLD HISTORY. "A work of almost Toynbeean sweep... When a scholar as careful and learned as Mr. Kennedy is prompted by contemporary issues to reexamine the great processes of the past, the result can only be an enhancement of our historical THE WIDELY ACCLAIMED BESTSELLER THAT BOLDLY AND LUCIDLY PUTS OUR CURRENT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL DILEMMAS INTO THE PERSPECTIVE OF WORLD HISTORY. "A work of almost Toynbeean sweep... When a scholar as careful and learned as Mr. Kennedy is prompted by contemporary issues to reexamine the great processes of the past, the result can only be an enhancement of our historical understanding.... When the study is written as simply and attractively as this work is, its publication may have a great and beneficient impact. It is to be hoped that Mr. Kennedy's will have one, at a potentially decisive moment in America's history." Michael Howard, The New York Times Book Review "Important, learned, and lucid... Paul Kennedy's great achievement is that he makes us see our current international problems against a background of empires that have gone under because they were unaible to sustain the material cost of greatness; and he does so in a universal historical perspective of which Ranke would surely have approved." James Joll, The New York Review of Books "His strategic-economic approach provides him with the context for a shapely narrative....Professor Kennedy not only exploits his framework eloquently, he also makes use of it to dig deeper and explore the historical contexts in which some 'power centers' prospered....But the most commanding purpose of his project...is the lesson he draws from 15 centuries of statecraft to apply to the present scene....[The book's] final section is for everyone concerned with the contemporary political scene." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times "Kennedy gives epic meaning to the nation's relative economic and industrial decline." Newsweek

30 review for The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000

  1. 5 out of 5

    William

    Back when I was in college, I felt the need for a course that looked at how economics, politics and warfare all combined to form statecraft. I never got to take that non-existent course, but got what I wanted in "Rise and Fall of Great Powers." Paul Kennedy wrote a 500-year history of grand strategy in world history, as first one European empire followed by another tried to achieve the perfect synthesis of absolute security and prosperity, and in the process scaring the hell out of smaller Back when I was in college, I felt the need for a course that looked at how economics, politics and warfare all combined to form statecraft. I never got to take that non-existent course, but got what I wanted in "Rise and Fall of Great Powers." Paul Kennedy wrote a 500-year history of grand strategy in world history, as first one European empire followed by another tried to achieve the perfect synthesis of absolute security and prosperity, and in the process scaring the hell out of smaller states who would combine to bring down the threatening giant. As such state/empires reached their peak, they would be beset by a plethora of competing priorities. If left alone, each threat would impeach the empire's raison d'etre, showing a weakness that others could exploit. That leads to "imperial overstretch," as the empire strains to resolve every crisis, and in the end go broke, its bankruptcy leading to decline. "Rise and Fall of Great Powers" came out towards the end of the Cold War, when American economic supremacy was questioned by the expensive military need to contain the Soviet Union worldwide. Japan was rising economically, perhaps moving into a position where it could overtake the US. Recent history proved otherwise, but Kennedy should be given credit for daring to "swing for the fences", even though he got the forecast wrong. In the end, the book is still a useful guide that explains how states work to increase their economic and military power, trying to build on their strengths while masking their weaknesses. Kennedy's prose can be quite dense at times, but the reader is encouraged to hack their way through the thicket. The facts do come together in the end.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Harpal

    Kennedy is the man. There's not much else to say. Sure, the thesis is "simplistic" or "schematic" or "deterministic" or whatever other bombastic term pseudo-intellectuals (and legitimate intellectuals alike) choose to use, but one has to understand that the project of this book is to make some sort of reasonably defensible generalization about what leads to the fall of great powers throughout history. That's not exactly easy. No single explanation will be perfect. But his thesis about imperial Kennedy is the man. There's not much else to say. Sure, the thesis is "simplistic" or "schematic" or "deterministic" or whatever other bombastic term pseudo-intellectuals (and legitimate intellectuals alike) choose to use, but one has to understand that the project of this book is to make some sort of reasonably defensible generalization about what leads to the fall of great powers throughout history. That's not exactly easy. No single explanation will be perfect. But his thesis about imperial overstretch is instructive and a useful lens through which to view the powers over the years. His predictions, as we have seen, have proven far from true, but, hey, he's a historian, not a clairvoyant. If masterful analysis of the past meant accurate prediction of the future, things would be very different. The real strength of this book is not even in its overarching argument but in the sheer synthesis and presentation of so much useful data about great powers from 1500-2000. It's not easy to find a one-stop book for economic and military data on 16th-century imperial Portugal and 1950s USSR, but this book has it. It made his career, and he surely deserved it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    This is one of the preeminent books on imperial overreach. Paul Kennedy charts over a 500 year period how great powers rise and fall. Economic resources fuel rises in power that lead to military buildups to protect that power. However, over time, more and more military resources are needed to maintain empires. Great powers invest more in their military and neglect domestic investments to strengthen their economy, leading to atrophy and decline. A corollary idea has to do with differencing growth This is one of the preeminent books on imperial overreach. Paul Kennedy charts over a 500 year period how great powers rise and fall. Economic resources fuel rises in power that lead to military buildups to protect that power. However, over time, more and more military resources are needed to maintain empires. Great powers invest more in their military and neglect domestic investments to strengthen their economy, leading to atrophy and decline. A corollary idea has to do with differencing growth rates. Because economic growth rates differ from country to country, depending on where they are in their economic development, demographic trends, and their susceptibility to technological adaptation and innovation, the relative power of states always fluctuate relative to one another. This is important for IR theory because it means that balancing through alliances and internal balancing through defense buildups may not be enough to overcome a rising powers with exaggerated rates of economic growth. It seems to me that there is a third element that needs to be addressed, which is the role of nation-building in economic development. Nation-building and overcoming civil strife were important aspects of the rise of the U.S., Germany, Japan, the USSR, and Italy. Prolonged conflict hurt China. I think there is a case to be made for this being an important third rung in Kennedy’s argument. In the final chapter, we see exactly why power politics is so hard to predict. We know that economic growth will be uneven, but we don’t know the particulars of that uneveness -- which countries will grow faster and when, when others may slow down. I was a little disappointed. Not by the history, but rather by the lack of exploration of ideas. As I was reading this book, I thought to myself that this couldn’t have been the origin of the idea of imperial overreach. Afterall, Thucydides talked about imperial overreach. Thus, I would have liked to have seen some of archeology of the idea of overreach and a situation of the author’s own idea within the larger landscape about ideas of imperial overreach. I have no problem with a history book being detail-rich and theory-neglectful. In a sense, that is the role of history. However, as I was reading this book I couldn’t but think that there was a wealth of insights on the idea of imperial overreach just outside this book’s purview.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    While this tome is undoubtedly a seminal work of history, its arguments are fatally flawed and ultimately unsatisfactory. His attempt is really to determine why Europe emerged as the leader of the international system in the 20th century as opposed to other traditional power centers in Asia and the Middle East. In the end, he never gets to the "ultimate question," which was the enchanting goal of Jared Diamond's "Gun's, Germs, and Steel." Kennedy spends a lot of time harping on the While this tome is undoubtedly a seminal work of history, its arguments are fatally flawed and ultimately unsatisfactory. His attempt is really to determine why Europe emerged as the leader of the international system in the 20th century as opposed to other traditional power centers in Asia and the Middle East. In the end, he never gets to the "ultimate question," which was the enchanting goal of Jared Diamond's "Gun's, Germs, and Steel." Kennedy spends a lot of time harping on the miraculousness of Europe's fractured city-state medieval political system as an incubator of ideas, a laboratory for military technology and political innovation, where states could experiment with their own ideas and borrow successful ideas from others. He contrasts this with the closed societies of Ming China and Tokugawa Japan. This political fragmentation that characterized medieval Europe was caused by natural geographic boundaries, such as the Alps, that prevented continental domination. But did the political fragmentation in Africa yield similar results? He doesn't deal with this, of course, but the answer is no. And why is it that Ming China, prior to its turn inwards, was such a great power to begin with, let alone the epic eras of political and technological advancement of the earlier Han and Tang dynasties? And what of the Ottoman Empire? How did these polities achieve such advances in political organization -- the Chinese civil service system was the first truly meritocratic bureaucracy in human history and would remain so for centuries -- and technology without this magic tonic of political fragmentation? Kennedy never addresses these questions. While worth reading, a reader looking for an attempt to address the ultimate question of why Europe was center of world power rather than Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, should pick up Diamond's shockingly original and impressive book instead.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sense of History

    In 1987 this was a real blockbuster in history and international politics. Kennedy seemed to have written the definitive analysis on the strength and weaknesses of empires and countries. But only two years later Kennedy's reputation was gone, because he had not predicted the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union. How unjust! This book can still be read for its breadth and erudition, and it certainly contains some very useful insights into the world of today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    An incredibly detailed and complex read, I would only recommend this to the history buff who is not only endlessly curious, but has some prior knowledge of Great Power history in the last 5 centuries. The amount of detail discussed upon is insane, and the author manages to paint the economic, social, military and political aspects of the powers in broad strokes, while using tables, graphs and good ol' quotations. But this book is more than just a narrative description - it is an analysis, and a An incredibly detailed and complex read, I would only recommend this to the history buff who is not only endlessly curious, but has some prior knowledge of Great Power history in the last 5 centuries. The amount of detail discussed upon is insane, and the author manages to paint the economic, social, military and political aspects of the powers in broad strokes, while using tables, graphs and good ol' quotations. But this book is more than just a narrative description - it is an analysis, and a very good one at that. The writing is clear, non-adorned and very easily understood in general. Bear in mind that this was published in 1987. Why do I say that? Well, because one of the Great Powers discussed at length is Russia - which at the time of writing this book, the author knew better as the USSR. At that point in time, the communist bloc was still in force, so the 1989 Autumn of the Nations (communist breakaway of Poland, Hungary, Checkoslovakia and Romania), the fall of the Berlin Wall (and thus the unification of West and East Germany, the latter once again breaking from communism) and finally, the big bad boy of 1991 and the fracturing of the Soviet Union into fifteen different states - these were all still a few years away. Just as well, while discussing European powers, within the 20th Century the author refers to them as EEC countries - because the creation of the European Union (which was going to absorb EEC and become sort of a continuation) was still some time away. When it comes to economy, the book discussed at length various different budgets and coinage, but it does not (and could not) discuss the Euro, which was only introduced in 1999. While it would have been fascinating to know the author's opinion on these changes, do know that his analysis ends in 1987 and thus does not address these monumental shifts. However, if you're interested in Great Power play (that sounds kinky) in the last 500 years, this is certainly the book for you.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Clif

    Published in 1987, this is a must-have reference for anyone interested in European history over the last 500 years and American history in the international context up until the late 20th century. It is a comparative anatomy of nations. Kennedy is erudite. The depth and breadth of his knowledge are on display throughout the book. In order to analyze national power, one must be familiar with the many factors that make it up, among them geography, economics, the characteristics of the citizenry, Published in 1987, this is a must-have reference for anyone interested in European history over the last 500 years and American history in the international context up until the late 20th century. It is a comparative anatomy of nations. Kennedy is erudite. The depth and breadth of his knowledge are on display throughout the book. In order to analyze national power, one must be familiar with the many factors that make it up, among them geography, economics, the characteristics of the citizenry, education, the quality of leadership, military technology and tactics, all probed thoroughly here. Statistics make for boring reading, so Kennedy has wisely kept numbers to a minimum. Rise and Fall keeps your interest because the insights the author provides always provoke thought. Repeatedly, Kennedy sets the international stage and then moves through an examination of each of the powers of a certain period in detail before arriving at the next period to begin with a new overview. I've read many historical accounts and have often wished for an overview to allow me to see the place and time in relation to the larger world. Rise and Fall is written is a way that makes it easy to go to a particular point since 1500 and take in the overall situation. Though Europe is the focus of most of the book, acting aggressively over the globe throughout, Japan and China are not excluded. Kennedy's coverage of the last part of the 20th century is no letdown from his account of earlier times, made all the more interesting because the reader knows exactly what has happened since. A grim picture is painted of the Soviet Union of 1985, but Kennedy warns more than once that it should not be assumed that it will collapse. He points out that over the 500 years he has covered, no great power went down suddenly except through war, yet in only two years time such a precedent was set. Power is relative and the great powers of any period are only judged in relation to each other. Strength of the national economy is a must, yet over time we see one power after another over-extend itself, squander its wealth, and finally come face to face with too many obligations and not enough resources to cover them all. At the height of power, it is difficult to see the loss of it, but inevitably it happens. The United States is no exception. Compared to the height of its power relative to the rest of the world at the end of WW2, the United States has definitely declined, remaining supreme only in the costly area of military power. As for the U.S. economy, it's almost humorous when Kennedy estimates that if the trend continues, the U.S. will have a national debt of $13 trillion by the year 2000, intending to shock the reader. Well, here we are in 2015 and the national debt is $18 trillion, with the one-time creditor to the world being deeply in dept to both China and Japan. If you want to eliminate the confusion that can come from reading many unrelated histories, here is the book to put all in context.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bruno Gremez

    This book by Paul Kennedy proposes a very interesting review of the politics and economics of the Great Powers of the last 5 centuries since 1500. It reviews our history, by analysing, one by one, the Great Powers of the time, their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges that caused them to lose their supremacy in favour of other upcoming Great Powers. Some of the main arguments of Paul Kennedy to explain the rise and fall of Great Powers are first that the strength of any Great Power is This book by Paul Kennedy proposes a very interesting review of the politics and economics of the Great Powers of the last 5 centuries since 1500. It reviews our history, by analysing, one by one, the Great Powers of the time, their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges that caused them to lose their supremacy in favour of other upcoming Great Powers. Some of the main arguments of Paul Kennedy to explain the rise and fall of Great Powers are first that the strength of any Great Power is measured only by comparison to others, and second, that relative strength depends to a large extent on the availability of available resources. History has shown that Great Powers tend to lose their dominance whenever their military needs and ambitions started to exceed their available, economic resources. The book starts with the Renaissance and the rise of European Powers, and examines the relative dominance of the Habsburgs over significant parts of Europe until the first half of the 17th century. It then shows the increasing importance of finance to distinguish those nations who fund their wars to a significant extent with the wealth they generate - especially Great Britain - from those who struggle to do so. The upcoming industrial revolution translates into additional power driven from the relative importance of industrial production to explain the dominance of industrial powerhouses over others. The analysis of the 20th century will add to that new or increasingly important other resources like iron, steel, coal, etc. and other factors like the size of the population and its urbanisation driving the strength of Great Powers. Here, to my view, Paul Kennedy could have insisted much more on the importance of access to oil to determine the strength of any nation throughout the 20th century. Control of oil production has been one of the key determining factors in my opinion of the rise and fall of Great Powers throughout the last century. The book finishes with the biggest question mark of our era: how long can the Great Powers of our time, and especially the United States, continue to dominate the world? And I would add to that: if and when the US stop being the world's only superpower, who will be next and what will that mean for all of us? Paul Kennedy rightly points out that continued deficit spending in the US, caused in part by increased military spending to fund (sometimes unnecessary, to my view) wars and the presence of US troops across the globe, may be one of the most important reasons for the relative decline of the US. A must read! Review by Bruno Gremez

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    As Kennedy puts it in his "Introduction," "This is a book about national and international power in the "modern"--that is, post-Renaissance--period. It seeks to trace and to explain how the various great powers have risen and fallen. . . ." And, on the same page: "The `military conflict' referred to in the book's subtitle is therefore always examined in the context of `economic change.' The triumph of any one Great Power in this period, or the collapse of another, has usually been the As Kennedy puts it in his "Introduction," "This is a book about national and international power in the "modern"--that is, post-Renaissance--period. It seeks to trace and to explain how the various great powers have risen and fallen. . . ." And, on the same page: "The `military conflict' referred to in the book's subtitle is therefore always examined in the context of `economic change.' The triumph of any one Great Power in this period, or the collapse of another, has usually been the consequence of lengthy fighting by its armed forces; but it has also been the consequence of the more or less efficient utilization of the state's productive resources in wartime, and, further in the background, of the way in which that state's economy has been rising or falling, relative to the other leading nations. . . ." He examines a variety of historical instances in which empires or countries spend more on their empires or expansion than they can afford. Too much expenditure on defense and the military drains the national treasure and wealth and can lead to an erosion in the vitality and power of that society. Earlier examples of imperial overreach or overstretch include the Hapsburg Empire (1519-1659). From 1660-1815, other examples are adduced. So, too, periods such as 1815-1885, 1885-1918, 1919-1942. He goes on to examine the bipolar world after World War II (the United States versus the Soviet Union) and the time there following. He is pessimistic about the United States maintaining its dominance. Two decades after the book was written, that fear has not come about. On the other hand, the Soviet Union did suffer from its "overreach" and has not survived as a major power in a bipolar system. Today's Russia is simply not a superpower anymore. Thus, his fear for the American future has not yet come about. Will it? If he is right and the United States overreaches, then we would expect decline. If his view is correct, there is a challenge to American decision makers to make sure that this does not happen. Are they up to the task? As historians might note, we must wait until the future to know. Thus, while some of his forecasts clearly have not yet come about, he does produce a rich historical analysis of the relationship between the internal characteristics of a society, the international context, and ultimate success or failure. This book is well worth grappling with. . . .

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    This was an endeavor. Starting from the Reformation to the late 80's this book covers the reasons for the rise and fall of the great powers. The Bourbon Monarchies, Hapsburgs, Napoleon, Holy Roman Empire/Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire, Britain, Nazi Germany, Japan, and the United States are all covered. I believe this book is on the level of Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy. A monumental undertaking that examines in-depth all aspects that make an empire and then subsequently lead to its This was an endeavor. Starting from the Reformation to the late 80's this book covers the reasons for the rise and fall of the great powers. The Bourbon Monarchies, Hapsburgs, Napoleon, Holy Roman Empire/Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire, Britain, Nazi Germany, Japan, and the United States are all covered. I believe this book is on the level of Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy. A monumental undertaking that examines in-depth all aspects that make an empire and then subsequently lead to its demise. This book did something different than what I am used to though. Economic power was examined thoroughly. The author did a fantastic job of linking economic power to the ability to fund military power. Those powers with a strong economy and powerful national infrastructure were able to fund and develop powerful militaries. The use of colonies, the Industrial Revolution, the General Staff system, Bismarckian alliances, and much more were also discussed. The book did end with a discussion on how the Soviet Union, Western Europe, Japan, China, and the United States would progress beyond the 80's. Deficit spending by the United States was covered in detail. It was eerie to read how the projections of the 80's became truths through the 90's, became ominous in the early 2000's, and now keep us up at night in 2016. How are infrastructure and manufacturing capability is being traded for a service society. How the cheaper third world is easily taking our manufacturing capabilities (economic power) so we can enjoy cheap commodities. Without an economic power base, we cannot develop our military power...we will eventually need to buy from someone else. Another subject was spiraling weapons development costs. The time period again was the 80's with a glance at the future. Eerie again on how the author peered into the future and predicted the infatuation with highly technical, therefore highly expensive, weapons systems. Can a multi-billion dollar death machine truly project military power when we can only afford three of them? Projections of a fleet of new jets or ships are later truncated to only a few after numerous development delays and cost 0verruns. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It takes quite some time to read due to the length and depth of the periods covered. The author did a marvelous job of research into the economic and military histories of the aforementioned subjects. A welcome addition to any study of world history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    W

    Too long for my liking,and goes into a bit too much detail about ancient empires like Ming China.Didn't really hold my interest.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    One of those magisterial overviews of five centuries of world history. Paul Kennedy does a very good job with a quasi-Marxian approach to this, in that economics do in large part determine the trajectory of nations (e.g., a materialist explanation). While Kennedy admits that earlier history is not his area of expertise, he does a decent job explaining how the "east" fell behind, given the increasing insularity of Ming China and the internecine struggles in South and East Asia that consumed One of those magisterial overviews of five centuries of world history. Paul Kennedy does a very good job with a quasi-Marxian approach to this, in that economics do in large part determine the trajectory of nations (e.g., a materialist explanation). While Kennedy admits that earlier history is not his area of expertise, he does a decent job explaining how the "east" fell behind, given the increasing insularity of Ming China and the internecine struggles in South and East Asia that consumed resources and attention. It's not a wholly convincing explanation but other historians have done a fairly good job examining this; I am reminded mainly of Kenneth Pomeranz's counterfactual essay in Unmaking the West , "Without Coal? Colonies? Calculus?: Counterfactuals and Industrialization in Europe and China." But to return to Kennedy, he has written a remarkable qualitative history based on ballpark quantitative statistics, which is an approach I can very much get behind. Relative national "incomes" in the seventeenth century, for instance, are exceedingly difficult to find data for, much less calculate. And yet Kennedy manages to paint a convincing picture of ebbs and flows in currencies and commodities, in relative power balances and military expenditures, tracing continuities in national approaches towards almost the present day. It is here that perhaps reviewers have, with the benefit of hindsight, come to blame Kennedy for his failure of prescience. Indeed, he comes close to an accurate prediction in terms of the overall trajectory of Russia, but in the specifics (i.e., the collapse of the Soviet Union), he just misses the mark: On the other hand, the Soviet war machine also has its own weaknesses and problems ... Since the dilemmas which face the strategy-makers of the other large Powers of the globe are also being pointed out in this chapter, it is only proper to draw attention to the great variety of difficulties confronting Russia's military-political leadership - without, however, jumpting to the opposite conclusion that the Soviet Union is therefore unlikely to 'survive' for very long. [Emphasis in original] Kennedy was writing in 1987, just two years before the overthrow of Communism in much of eastern Europe, and four before the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. But despite failing to predict its collapse, he nevertheless successfully identified a downwards socioeconomic and geopolitical trajectory for Russia that has since been proven accurate. Similarly, Kennedy's prognosis for the United States seems, especially now, to have been borne out, almost frighteningly so: Although the United States is at present still in a class of its own economically and perhaps even militarily, it cannot avoid confronting the two great tests which challenge the longevity of every major power that occupies the 'number one' problem in world affairs: whether, in the military/strategical realm, it can preserve a reasonable balance between the nation's perceived defense requirements and the means it possesses to maintain those commitments; and whether, as an intimately related point, it can preserve the technological and economic bases of its power from relative erosion in the face of the ever-shifting patterns of global production. This test of American abilities will be the greater because it...is the inheritor of a vast array of strategical commitments had been made decades earlier ... In consequence, the United States now runs the risk, so familiar to historians of the rise and fall of previous Great Powers, of what roughly might be called 'imperial overstretch'. And though he never quite describes it as a future strategic competitor (and, to be fair, it is only in the past fifteen years that the contours of Sino-American relations have really begun to solidify), it is clear to Kennedy that the eventual rise of China is perpetually lurking in the background. "The most decisive" international fissure of the Cold War, he writes, "was the split between the USSR and Communist China," which served to make even that era less of a totally bipolar system than is typically conceived of. China is one of five extant or emerging power centers he identifies, and sees a gradually strengthening power with some of the highest growth rates on Earth - this towards the tail end of Deng's rule, before it really took off. And so, what then for the United States? In keeping with his theme of "imperial overstretch," Kennedy points out that the United States in 1987 had "roughly the same massive array of military obligations across the globe as it had a quarter-century [prior], when its shares of world GNP, manufacturing production, military spending, and armed forces personnel were so much larger." All the military services will inevitably demand more resources and cry poverty, yes, but that is because what passes for American "statecraft" in the 21st century manages to avoid any hard decisions, any downscaling of commitments, and any meaningful reassessment of available ways and means - with an eye towards determining commensurate ends. Here again, Kennedy is prescient: "an American polity which responds to external challenges by increasing defense expenditures and reacts to the budgetary crisis by slashing the existing social expenditures, may run the risk of provoking an eventual political backlash." We've almost certainly watched that unfold in the years since 2001. In keeping with the rest of Rise and Fall, the United States is in fact headed for decline, but in a relative sense, one that is manageable if approached reasonably. This doesn't single out the country; instead it might be seen (and is by Kennedy) as a reversion to the mean: It may be argued that the geographical extent, population, and resources of the United States suggest that it ought to possess perhaps 16 or 18 percent of the world's wealth and power, but because of historical and technical circumstances favorable to it, that share rose to 40 percent or more by 1945; and what we are witnessing at the moment is the early decades of the ebbing away from that extraordinarily high figure to a more 'natural' share. Kennedy also offers a warning: "the task facing American statesmen over the next decades, therefore...is a need to 'manage' affairs to that the relative erosion of the United States' position takes place slowly and smoothly, and is not accelerated by policies which bring merely short-term advantage but longer-term disadvantage." This is wise counsel for the years ahead, as the unipolar moment continues to rapidly fade. But if this is the predominant challenge to the United States in the 21st century - a superpower in decline - than so far we have surely failed to meet it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Kraai

    A totally useless book until we get closer to WWI. Full of generalities and no figures. And while the book does eventually begin, at a historical point where the author is more familiar, the early deficiencies continue to infect the remaining chapters. For example, how were the wars financed? The money system gets set up long before WWI, and Kennedy basically has nothing to say about it. It's a shame, especially because his beautiful manufacturing numbers can't be understood without debt. A totally useless book until we get closer to WWI. Full of generalities and no figures. And while the book does eventually begin, at a historical point where the author is more familiar, the early deficiencies continue to infect the remaining chapters. For example, how were the wars financed? The money system gets set up long before WWI, and Kennedy basically has nothing to say about it. It's a shame, especially because his beautiful manufacturing numbers can't be understood without debt. Germany can't be understood without debt. I. Chernev gives some details in House of Morgan and House of Warburg, but those are side chapters and don't fully address Kennedy's theme. The numbers he needed were rates of interest and who was lending what. We needed to talk about financial centers. How were the Soviets borrowing?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This is a really important book to read for students of diplomacy, military history, and grand strategy. It covers the economic and military reasons for the rise and fall of great powers. It is Eurocentric and covers the rise of Elizabethan England, the decline of Spain, the rise of Napoleon, the rise of Germany, the decline of the Austrian and Ottoman Empires, the rise of the United States and Japan, and the Decline of the British Empire. The final chapter on the bipolar world of the USSR and This is a really important book to read for students of diplomacy, military history, and grand strategy. It covers the economic and military reasons for the rise and fall of great powers. It is Eurocentric and covers the rise of Elizabethan England, the decline of Spain, the rise of Napoleon, the rise of Germany, the decline of the Austrian and Ottoman Empires, the rise of the United States and Japan, and the Decline of the British Empire. The final chapter on the bipolar world of the USSR and US has been eclipsed by events, but the earlier chapters are a must read. Far from being a geographic determinist like Mackinder and Jared Diamond, Kennedy does deal effectively with the contributions of culture and polity to the rise and fall of nations without descending to a Gibbon-style rant on decadence.

  15. 5 out of 5

    AC

    The key determinant (@ Kennedy) is relative, not absolute decline). British GDP grew, in absolute terms, while it declined relative to the US and others. Thus do great powers ebb... The US peaked in early 2000, though a debt bubble managed to keep things aloft for another few years. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story... When China meets the US, China will be poorer on a per capita basis, but will FEEL richer as it is ascending; while the US, with a small population, will be richer on a per The key determinant (@ Kennedy) is relative, not absolute decline). British GDP grew, in absolute terms, while it declined relative to the US and others. Thus do great powers ebb... The US peaked in early 2000, though a debt bubble managed to keep things aloft for another few years. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story... When China meets the US, China will be poorer on a per capita basis, but will FEEL richer as it is ascending; while the US, with a small population, will be richer on a per capita basis, but will FEEL poorer, as it is descending. The markets have already started to discount this process -- as markets anticipate....

  16. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    Like the end of history by Fukuyama and Clash of Civilizations by Huntington, this is one of the big idea history books and I mean big idea as in "the fox knows many things the hedgehog know one big thing". this is a hedgehog book tracing the rise and fall of powers on the fortunes of commerce for the rise and military expenditure and overextension for the fall. Fairly simple big idea iterated over the past 500 years. That is the big idea traced in the book and narrative Kennedy gives to western Like the end of history by Fukuyama and Clash of Civilizations by Huntington, this is one of the big idea history books and I mean big idea as in "the fox knows many things the hedgehog know one big thing". this is a hedgehog book tracing the rise and fall of powers on the fortunes of commerce for the rise and military expenditure and overextension for the fall. Fairly simple big idea iterated over the past 500 years. That is the big idea traced in the book and narrative Kennedy gives to western history. I love it when a story comes together but always remember it narrative threads can be seductive but reality may be more complex.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pieter

    Whereas Toynbee and Spengler focused more on organic cycles and look into a wider era, Kennedy highlights in his book the rise and fall of empires during the last 500 years. It is important to remind that the former Yale professor wrote this book in 1988, just before the end of the Cold War. He likes to link military strategy to economic strength. Basically, strong economies will has sufficient funds to build a strong army, while countries after their economic zenith have to invest more to Whereas Toynbee and Spengler focused more on organic cycles and look into a wider era, Kennedy highlights in his book the rise and fall of empires during the last 500 years. It is important to remind that the former Yale professor wrote this book in 1988, just before the end of the Cold War. He likes to link military strategy to economic strength. Basically, strong economies will has sufficient funds to build a strong army, while countries after their economic zenith have to invest more to protect themselves against their enemies. This leads to a downward spiral. During the 1500's, no one would have guessed that Europe would soon be the centre of the world. Ming China was leading: it was strong in naval warfare and had invented the compass, gunpowder, cannons. But Europe had access to all military and economic means and was eager to innovate as its countries were exposed to high competition. The first empire discussed is Habsburg. It was encircled by enemies like Holland, France, Sweden, Ottoman Empire and England. While it had a strong army and a ditto tax basis (gold from the Americas, rich regions like Flanders), it eventually lost several wars due to several reasons: the relative decline of its army, the Dutch disease due to high gold and silver imports, less free trade and expensive wars. Sweden became a Great Power for a short time thanks to its large army made of mercenaries and paid by other countries, but it soon evaporated due to the too small basis. In short, the same story is true for Holland that also depended on mercenaries, but thrived via its naval expansion. Actually, it was England who perfected naval warfare, used conflicts on the continent to balance its rivals and made use of financial resources as a first quality debtor to pay the bills of all its wars. This helped to keep at pace with both Sun King's and Napoleon's France and eventually overtake it. France was the first to install a war ministry and a first class bureaucracy, but it lagged behind Britain's industrial revolution, financial and naval power. The latter reconquered Malta and Egypt to keep the gates open to India, while France failed to hit Britain from behind in Ireland. The Continental Blockade was never meant to hold. So far for the period 1500-1810 which only takes a quarter of the Kennedy's volume. A bit more time to spend on the 19th century, whereby France and Russia (partly due to the Crimea war) fell behind, whereas united Germany (industrialisation) , Great Britain (colonies) and the United States (migration) made a giant leap. During WW I, it was the US its the gigantic economic potential power and population that eventually led to an allied victory. Basically, the same is true for WW II. Soviet Union had a mass production of airplanes and tanks, but Stalin had just beheaded his military staff, whereas Germany was producing beyond maximum capacity, but lacking a pool of raw materials. Uniting Austria (currency reserves) and conquering Czech Republic (arms industry) were extending the pool, but not in a structured way. By the time US joined the allied forces in 1941 it was a economic giant, but military still focused on the Americas. Three years later it stepped into a bipolar conflict with the Soviet Union on a global scale. It is sometimes hard to understand some rationale during the Cold War with the benefit of the hindsight. American politicians were actually afraid that via the domino strategy, communism would conquer Asia. This explains the Korea War in 1950 and the Vietnam War a few years later. No need to say that the latter created a national trauma. Not so much in terms of military power, but due to domestic opinion and the lack of adaptation to small scale war led to humilitating retreat. Kennedy is right that two factors were favourable for the US: Kissinger's move to make China an ally and hence creating a new front for Soviet Union in case of war and the lack of economic and military power of the Eastern European countries. Again, it is important to remind that the book ends in 1988. The author looks towards the future and foresees China to become a economic power. Next to that, he is right that both China and Japan will use their economic strength for military purposes. The world is no longer bipolar but rather multipolar in which the US-Russian conflict is still there even after 1989. But is fascinating to see that even Kennedy could not have foreseen the fall of the Soviet Union just a year later. Was the fall so unexpected or are things just easier to explain with hindsight?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pete Dolack

    What a disappointment this book is. Can you imagine a book that purports to explain the rise of European wealth and domination over the rest of the world that not once mentions slavery? That spends all of two pages skimming over colonialism (without ever using the word) and only a handful of brief mentions in passing thereafter? Incredible, but there it is. So what accounts for Europe's rise to dominance? Why, it's the "free enterprise" system! Yep, Paul Kennedy gets its completely backward. What a disappointment this book is. Can you imagine a book that purports to explain the rise of European wealth and domination over the rest of the world that not once mentions slavery? That spends all of two pages skimming over colonialism (without ever using the word) and only a handful of brief mentions in passing thereafter? Incredible, but there it is. So what accounts for Europe's rise to dominance? Why, it's the "free enterprise" system! Yep, Paul Kennedy gets its completely backward. Capitalism — or "economic laissez-faire" and "intellectual liberty" as the author puts it on page 30 — miraculously guides Europe to its destiny. After that, it becomes a matter of who has the better military and better access to credit that determines which European powers rise and which fall. Most of the book is a tedious stringing together of endless army statistics and weaponry comparisons, augmented by data on the financial conditions of the contenting countries. Useful for someone purely interested in military history but not so much for anybody else. Obviously, capitalism, "economic laissez-faire" and "intellectual liberty" did not exist in 16th century Europe, when Kennedy begins his study and is already, in his book, lifting Europe above the world's other regions. In reality, it was the plunder of the Americas and elsewhere that provided the material wealth that proceeded the gradual development of capitalism. Capitalism has its roots in the rise of trade relations between England and what are now the Benelux countries, but the eventual Industrial Revolution, and development of industry that enabled the technology that in turn enabled conquering of lands around the world, was boot-strapped by the wealth accumulated from slavery, colonialism and imperial plunder. Horrendous exploitation of peasants forced off their land and forced into the new factories at starvation wages through draconian laws enabled the accumulation of capital that could be taxed to create large armies and fund weaponry development. None of this is mentioned in Kennedy's book. The sad aspect of this is that Kennedy clearly did not set out to write a piece of propaganda and cites an impressive list of sources; his is a work of a well-read professor conversant in historical scholarship. We can only speculate as to why he produced such a limited work. The only realistic answer is that he had to have been a prisoner of ideology — i.e., we Europeans are superior to the rest of the world so let's find out how our superior attributes arose. Such beginnings result in a myopic waste. It is no surprise, nonetheless, that the book enjoys its strong (although unwarranted) reputation as it nicely confirms Eurocentric biases while conveniently omitted almost all mention of the slavery, imperialism, plunder and genocide that accompanied its rise. I ordinarily make it a point to only review books I like and avoid giving low scores, but given this book's undeserved reputation, I thought I would make an exception here so that perhaps others might avoid wasting their time as I did.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Written in 1987, Kennedy weaves the economic histories and military histories of the Great Powers and show how empires can be won or lost by ignoring one or the other and how military and economic concerns support each other as a country interacts with the world. Why I started this book: Epic scope, and just released as a 30 hour audio book, I was eager to tackle this history. Why I finished it: First, most history books break up history into themes, time periods or regions of the world. It's Written in 1987, Kennedy weaves the economic histories and military histories of the Great Powers and show how empires can be won or lost by ignoring one or the other and how military and economic concerns support each other as a country interacts with the world. Why I started this book: Epic scope, and just released as a 30 hour audio book, I was eager to tackle this history. Why I finished it: First, most history books break up history into themes, time periods or regions of the world. It's refreshing and necessary to zoom out and look at it in one big picture, to realize the economic and military constraints and threads that flow continuously. Second, predictions are so hard... and it's fascinating to see Kennedy's insights just 2 years before the Wall fell and the U.S.S.R. was split up.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    A very well researched overview with extensive footnotes. I like Kennedy's prose style as well. He ties together multiple strands of the Great Powers' histories: cultural, political, economic, military. Most of us 'know' at least the broad outlines of the stories he tells, but he makes connections and correlations that I had overlooked. He finished writing the book in 1986. I'd like to read his reaction to the events of 1989 - the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, A very well researched overview with extensive footnotes. I like Kennedy's prose style as well. He ties together multiple strands of the Great Powers' histories: cultural, political, economic, military. Most of us 'know' at least the broad outlines of the stories he tells, but he makes connections and correlations that I had overlooked. He finished writing the book in 1986. I'd like to read his reaction to the events of 1989 - the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, Tianamen Square, and other events in countries not in the Great Power zone: Solidarity (Poland), Cambodia, Ethiopia, Czechoslovakia, Romania. What would he make of the Euro (introduced in 1999), the world's second largest reserve currency? What would he make of the United States today? China?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Remi

    The history of great powers is interesting, but what is really amazing are the insights and forecasts that are made in this book, published in 1987. This book is mostly accurate 30 years later. Learning how Paul Kennedy thinks about great powers and the future is wonderful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Burinschi Emil

    Profound analysis of the period of time in International Relations, including lots' of statistics and emphasis on the economic factors.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Updegrove

    Paul Kennedys exegesis on the intersection of economic capacity, extraterritorial ambition and political reality is what Monty Python might refer to as a bloody big book. Indeed weighing in at 677 pages, it is more than up to the task of putting down your budgerigar, if thats on your to do list. Notwithstanding that fact and its subject matter, for a serious reader it is an accessible and readable treatment of subject that is often presented in quite the opposite fashion.This is not to say that Paul Kennedy’s exegesis on the intersection of economic capacity, extraterritorial ambition and political reality is what Monty Python might refer to as “a bloody big book.” Indeed weighing in at 677 pages, it is more than up to the task of putting down your budgerigar, if that’s on your to do list. Notwithstanding that fact and its subject matter, for a serious reader it is an accessible and readable treatment of subject that is often presented in quite the opposite fashion.This is not to say that the level of detail provided may prove to be more than what many non-academic readers might prefer. Given that Kennedy relies on more than 500 years of years of European history for most of its underlying data, that detail is considerable, on which more below. Kennedy’s central thesis is summarized in the promotional material as follows: As the relative strengths of leading nations in world affairs never remains constant, there is an optimum balance between wealth creation and military strength over the long term. Time and again the leading power believed that it could neglect wealth production in favor of military adventures but others waiting in the wings closed the gap, the relative strength was eroded and a long, slow decline of the once-leading power followed…. That’s all well and good, but the question then turns to how many pages should be delegated to presenting the theory, and how many to substantiating it? A further sample from the blurb goes on to give you an idea where Kennedy strikes the balance: …Warlike rivalries between European states stimulated advances, economic growth and military effectiveness. The Habsburg bid for power was ultimately unsuccessful because other European states worked together, the Habsburgs overextended in repeated conflicts during which they became militarily top heavy upon a weakening economic base. The other European states managed a better balance between wealth creation and military power. The power struggles between 1600 and 1815 were more complicated as Spain and the Netherlands declined while France, Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia rose to dominate diplomacy, and warfare. Britain gained an advantage by creating an advanced banking and credit system and, together with Russia had the capacity to intervene while being geographically sheltered from the center of conflict…. If that sounds like a bit of a snooze to you, well, for the first few years of the period covered, it can be, given the hundreds of small states comprising Europe at that time and Kennedy’s reticence not to give any of them proper attention. But it’s easy to skim past the fiddly bits, if you’re so inclined, in order to follow the bigger story line. To be fair, anyone that tackles an historical topic that spans a long time period faces the dilemma of how much background knowledge to assume the reader will have below decks when she enters the picture. Some authors, like Piers Brendon, in his (otherwise) magnificent Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1781 – 1997), which addresses a good bit of the same subject matter, assume that the reader took a degree in British History from Oxford, tantalizing and titillating (but explaining virtually nothing) as he romps through centuries and across the globe. Others, like Kennedy, take no chances – and then some. Accordingly, unless you unless you enjoy reading history for history’s sake and not for the sort of narrative approach commonly found in non-fiction books that find their way onto best seller lists, you may want to let this one go by. And even if you’re a serious student of political economy, you may wish that Kennedy had spent somewhat more time developing and discussing his thesis than presenting the supporting data in such detail. But enough of the down side. If you’re a serious student of history and realize that most of your reading to date has left economics out of the picture, then this will be an interesting and worthwhile read. In particular, Kennedy’s final chapters (completed just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and offering thoughts on what the future may hold), make for an interesting read. The fact that the decades that follow have not always tracked his expectations detract nothing form the careful development of his analysis.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Kim

    Where most academic works in economics and history are timid, limited in scope and ambition, this book is grand and magisterial--a must-read for anyone interested in history and economics. Its subject is nothing less than the history of the Great Powers from 1500-2000, viewed from the lens of military and economic power. In its worldview, this book is unapologetically conservative and realist: there is little discussion of changing social conditions, of the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, Where most academic works in economics and history are timid, limited in scope and ambition, this book is grand and magisterial--a must-read for anyone interested in history and economics. Its subject is nothing less than the history of the Great Powers from 1500-2000, viewed from the lens of military and economic power. In its worldview, this book is unapologetically conservative and realist: there is little discussion of changing social conditions, of the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, of the moral consequences of war, or indeed of any higher ideal than national prosperity and the maintenance of order. But on the subjects Kennedy chooses to cover--the interaction between economic prosperity and military might, the changes in technology that shake up the international order--no other work can match its vision. Kennedy wisely eschews any general theory to explain these changes: his most sweeping points--that all power is relative, that military strength must be commensurate to national wealth, and that the wellsprings of national wealth change over time--are neither new nor particularly controversial. The main contribution of this work is to flesh these core insights out with mounds of historical data, beginning with the Hapsburg supremacy of the 1500s and ending with the Cold War world of 1987. To treat these divergent subjects as Kennedy does with such verve and depth of understanding is a significant feat. Of course, no work of ambition is without flaws. The last chapter, which predicts the world post-1987--perhaps the most interesting chapter at the time--is now interesting primarily as a study of mid-1980s Western misconceptions about the world. While Kennedy notes the Soviet Union's numerous internal contradictions, he explicitly refutes the possibility of a collapse; even worse, he falls into the trap of extrapolating Japan's meteoric growth out into the 2020s, completely missing the portents of the coming Lost Decades. He also betrays a historian's bias for industrial production numbers over "softer" measures of economic strength (no economist would seriously argue that the US should be pursuing agricultural output over value-added services), which results in an underrating of the US's economic health. But such criticisms are mostly giving Kennedy a hard time. (In fairness, he does predict China's rise, which was by no means assured in 1987.) As the old adage goes, prediction is hard--especially about the future. The pitfalls of false analogies and over-extrapolation await any attempt to project the future from the annals of history. Though he stumbles in his view of the future, what Kennedy has done is provide a first-rate map of the past.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    I read this a long time ago, about the time of publication, prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. Yes, the book is dated, but its analysis of the ebb and flow of great states, and in particular of the period before the fall was/is well constructed and illuminating. It is amazing to read something written about the flaws of the Soviet system without any hindsight - Kennedy made clear that the flaws were clearly in evidence, and that the USSR was in decline. This is heavy, meaty I read this a long time ago, about the time of publication, prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. Yes, the book is dated, but its analysis of the ebb and flow of great states, and in particular of the period before the fall was/is well constructed and illuminating. It is amazing to read something written about the flaws of the Soviet system without any hindsight - Kennedy made clear that the flaws were clearly in evidence, and that the USSR was in decline. This is heavy, meaty historical/economic analysis of the modern world, and demands that readers have a grasp and foundation in European history (it is centered there) as Kennedy weaves in actors and events without explaining them. I cannot believe I read this when I was in my late teens - I must have not understood 2/3 of it. I would recommend the last chapters for those wanting a contemporary view of the world prior to the end of the bipolar era.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ben Sweezy

    So far I've been pretty frustrated by Kennedy. His introduction lays out a fairly simplistic set of reasons purporting to explain why the West "rose" and the East did not. China: Orientalist despotism, a unitary China, the decision to scrap the treasure fleets, persecution of merchants, an ethos not focused on competition or accumulation of wealth, state-directed investments. Europe: political fragmentation, merchants could do their thing, embrace of competition and accumulation of wealth. But then So far I've been pretty frustrated by Kennedy. His introduction lays out a fairly simplistic set of reasons purporting to explain why the West "rose" and the East did not. China: Orientalist despotism, a unitary China, the decision to scrap the treasure fleets, persecution of merchants, an ethos not focused on competition or accumulation of wealth, state-directed investments. Europe: political fragmentation, merchants could do their thing, embrace of competition and accumulation of wealth. But then he cites as reasons for spain's decline: political fragmentation leading to lack of cohesion internal trade barriers and ineffective tax mechanisms... eh, i'll get back to this review later. I think he's starting to make up for his deficiencies by actually digging into the real economic systems, not merely taking a "state" as a unitary instrument of economic decisions. to be explored more thoroughly later.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    A brilliant concept with a mostly-engaging presentation marred occasionally by repetition. The book discusses what makes a nation-state "great" and follows what the author calls the "great power system" from its first rise in the 1500s up until the mid-1980s. He provides a brief history of the rise of each power and its subsequent fall along with the underlying reasons for its "greatness". The book concentrates on why powers rise and fall and provides little more than a cursory discussion of the A brilliant concept with a mostly-engaging presentation marred occasionally by repetition. The book discusses what makes a nation-state "great" and follows what the author calls the "great power system" from its first rise in the 1500s up until the mid-1980s. He provides a brief history of the rise of each power and its subsequent fall along with the underlying reasons for its "greatness". The book concentrates on why powers rise and fall and provides little more than a cursory discussion of the actual history to identify broad trends, so this is not really a history book, it is more of a political science book. It is very interesting and thought-provoking but does drag in places. The author does belabor the point more than a few times. I think if you have an interest in history, this is something worth reading since it does do a good job of placing historical events in larger contexts and global geopolitical forces.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Khalid

    The book explores the politics and economics of the Great Powers from 1500 to 1980 and the reason for their decline. It then continues by forecasting the positions of China, Japan, the European Economic Community (EEC), the Soviet Union and the United States through the end of the 20th century. Kennedy argues that the strength of a Great Power can be properly measured only relative to other powers, and he provides a straightforward and persuasively argued thesis: Great Power ascendency (over the The book explores the politics and economics of the Great Powers from 1500 to 1980 and the reason for their decline. It then continues by forecasting the positions of China, Japan, the European Economic Community (EEC), the Soviet Union and the United States through the end of the 20th century. Kennedy argues that the strength of a Great Power can be properly measured only relative to other powers, and he provides a straightforward and persuasively argued thesis: Great Power ascendency (over the long term or in specific conflicts) correlates strongly to available resources and economic durability; military "over-stretch" and a concomitant relative decline are the consistent threat facing powers whose ambitions and security requirements are greater than their resource base can provide for.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James

    This isn't a light read; it's densely loaded with economic, demographic, and other historical data. That makes its conclusions all the more solid and reasonable, though, and the book has aged well since its publication, now decades ago. Kennedy's explanation for why different empires have risen to power and then burned out and fallen by the wayside is not cheery when one looks at America now. If anything, we seem to be moving faster than most along the path he described. I wish some of the This isn't a light read; it's densely loaded with economic, demographic, and other historical data. That makes its conclusions all the more solid and reasonable, though, and the book has aged well since its publication, now decades ago. Kennedy's explanation for why different empires have risen to power and then burned out and fallen by the wayside is not cheery when one looks at America now. If anything, we seem to be moving faster than most along the path he described. I wish some of the policy-makers who have been calling the shots so far this century had read this, or if they did read it, had heeded it. Things would probably look a lot different and a lot better today if they had.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    This book covers from the Ottoman Empire to The Cold War; roughly 500 years in as many pages. This brisk pace makes the mostly military history come across like a zoetrope; animation through rapid motion. The approach to war is one of the logistics over strategy; technology and foreign cash reserves factor in more than geography and division count. The final chapter looking ahead is almost quanit as the 1987 work still has to consider East Germany and the USSR. However, even then there were This book covers from the Ottoman Empire to The Cold War; roughly 500 years in as many pages. This brisk pace makes the mostly military history come across like a zoetrope; animation through rapid motion. The approach to war is one of the logistics over strategy; technology and foreign cash reserves factor in more than geography and division count. The final chapter looking ahead is almost quanit as the 1987 work still has to consider East Germany and the USSR. However, even then there were still relevant topics: Latin America's drugs into the US, the rise of China, America's uncertain future as superpower, and the rise of Asian economies like aging Japan.

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