978-1-891620-67-6 / 9781891620676

The Wealth of Man





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About the book:

The leitmotif of Peter Jay's great Road to Riches is a three-stage economic waltz. He describes the first dance step as an economic advance enabling more wealth to be created or more mouths fed or fed better. The second step finds administrators or kings or presidents (what Jay calls "external raiders") plundering the fruits of the creators. In the final stage, social or political solutions emerge to square the dance.

The 383-page book forms a partnership of sorts with the BBC series of the same name, which was also produced by Jay; however, The Road to Riches is so chalk-full of historical research that the television series bears only a passing resemblance to the book's content. Jay's work spans the entire civilisation and focuses on the creation of wealth by man over the ages. Jay has unearthed massive amounts of information the reaction from the reader to typically be, "Wow, I didn't know that". For example, evolutionary changes in man allowed him to stand erect, wield tools for capturing and preparing food, that then allowed for smaller teeth and the emergence of the voice box. This set the stage for the "perfection of the voice-box and hence for the anatomical basis of modern language on which the exercise of human creativity is so dependent". While the book ostensibly is about the rise of money, it is really a broad sociological survey of developments in mankind which led to various forms of political organisation and in turn led to various means of creating wealth. However, he sticks to his guns, and the three-step waltz is continually recurring, whether he is discussing the Roman and Greek empires, the transformation of the world through shipping, or the industrial revolution of the 18th century.

Jay has a flair for writing that makes dipping in and out of the book a pleasure. Even more important is Jay's tremendous ability to provide supporting anecdotes to prove his point without being overly scholarly or even worse, dull. --Bruce McWilliams

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