Atlas of Material Life

Northwestern Europe and East Asia, 15th to 19th century

About this book

Large-scale comparative economic history of westernmost and easternmost Eurasia can be beneficial for the understanding of global history. This book provides a description of material life in North-western Europe and East Asia, for the period from the late fifteenth to the late nineteenth centuries, with a focus on developments in Great Britain and the Dutch Republic on the one hand and China and Japan on the other hand. With maps, tables, graphs and figures as a prominent and integral part of the book, it provides information, in an accessible format, on the main characteristics of the economic landscape of this period. It demonstrates the constraints to which all pre-industrial economies were subjected because of their dependence on organic natural resources but also the different ways in which the societies discussed dealt with those constraints. To provide a better understanding of this economy of limited possibilities, the final chapter of the book is devoted to the emergence of modern economic growth in Western Europe.

Peer Vries was professor of Global Economic History at the University of Vienna from 2007 to 2016. Since 2016, he is Honorary Research Fellow at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. He published widely on global economic history and on the Great Divergence.

Annelieke Vries-Baaijens studied Physical Geography with a major in Cartography at Utrecht University. She defended her PhD in Mathematics and Computer Science at Delft University. Since 2010, she makes digital maps of historical subjects.



Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Illustrated: Yes

ISBN Print: 9789087283544

ISBN ePUB: 9789400603936

ISBN ePDF: 9789400603929

Published: 1 December 2020

Language: English


Category: ,

Price 55.00


  • – John McNeill, University Professor, Georgetown University

    "The comparative data are very useful and sometimes on their own revealing. Having all this between two covers (or in one digital file) will be very handy for all those scholars who work in, or dabble in, macro-scale economic history. […] The subject matter – large-scale comparative economic history of westernmost and easternmost Eurasia – is of first-rate importance for world history."

  • - Milia van Tielhof, Senior Researcher, Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands

    “This book is impressive because of its wide scope, treating numerous aspects of the economic and societal history of very different countries over a long period. Best of all, however, is the fact that the data are systematically selected and presented in ways that make worldwide comparisons possible, especially between Europe and Asia. […] It was a very good choice to match the text with a variety of figures, considering the increasing popularity of data visualization. The figures are attractive ad effective, giving the reader quick impressions of important historical developments. […] The authors have done an excellent job by opening up the field of global economic history in this way.”

  • - Jürgen Osterhammel, University Professor, Freiburg University

    “The Atlas of Material Life stands out on three points in particular. First, it introduces the practices, if not the fully developed methodology, of comparison between Europe and its quintessential East Asian “other” in an accessible, unobtrusive, and data-rich way. […] Second, Peer Vries is very good at dealing with quantification, something that is all too often regarded in global history studies as unnecessary pedantry. As in many previous publications, Vries draws the reader’s attention to the limits of the knowable, the illusions of exactness, the perils of estimates, and the strength of common sense in assessing claims of accuracy. […] Third, Annelieke Vries’s maps are always devised with a keen eye on the usefulness that the authors consider a defining feature of their Atlas. […] On the whole, this is a textbook in the best sense: useful in many different respects, pleasing in its visual appearance, and never concealing the personal voice of a committed scholar and teacher."

  • - Anne Gerritsen, University Professor, University of Warwick, Leiden University

    “Throughout the book, the data is presented clearly and succinctly, drawn from a very wide array of mostly secondary sources but organized in a manner that makes comparisons across space and time feasible. Much of that clear presentation is due to the work done by Annelieke Vries: she is responsible for all the excellent maps as well as the lay-out of the book. […] But its real value lies in making the very complex, often inaccessible and mostly incomparable data contained in those scattered sources simple, accessible and comparable, and that makes this a very welcome contribution to the arsenal of resources we can make use of in teaching but also in our research. We owe the Vrieses a dept of gratitude for doing this.”

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