China's extraordinary rise as an ecomic powerhouse in the past two decades poses a challenge to many long-held assumptions about the relationship between political institutions and ecomic development. Ecomic prosperity also was vitally important to the longevity of the Chinese Empire throughout the preindustrial era. Before the eighteenth century, China's ecomy shared some of the features, such as highly productive agriculture and sophisticated markets, found in the most advanced regions of Europe. But in many respects, from the central importance of irrigated rice farming to family structure, property rights, the status of merchants, the monetary system, and the imperial state's fiscal and ecomic policies, China's preindustrial ecomy diverged from the Western path of development. In this comprehensive but accessible study, Richard von Glahn examines the institutional foundations, continuities and discontinuities in China's ecomic development over three millennia, from the Bronze Age to the early twentieth century.
Richard von Glahn is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he has taught Chinese and world history since 1987. His primary field of research is the economic history of premodern China, with a particular focus on the period 1000-1700. He has previously published three monographs in Chinese history, including Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700 (1996) and The Sinister Way: The Divine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture (2004), several edited books, and a co-authored textbook in world history, Crossroads and Cultures: A History of the World (2012). The present book has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation. Von Glahn's current research focuses on monetary and commercial circulation in maritime East Asia from the eighth to the seventeenth centuries.