William J. Bernstein – A Splendid Exchange

Adam Smith wrote that man has an intrinsic “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another”. But how did trade evolve to the point where we don’t think twice about biting into an apple from the other side of the world?

In A Splendid Exchange, William J. Bernstein tells the extraordinary story of global commerce from its prehistoric origins to the myriad controversies surrounding it today. He transports listeners from ancient sailing ships that brought the silk trade from China to Rome in the second century to the rise and fall of the Portuguese monopoly in spices in the 16th; from the rush for sugar that brought the British to Jamaica in 1655 to the American trade battles of the early 20th century; from key innovations such as steam, steel, and refrigeration to the modern era of televisions from Taiwan, lettuce from Mexico, and T-shirts from China.

Along the way, Bernstein examines how our age-old dependency on trade has contributed to our planet’s agricultural bounty, stimulated intellectual progress, and made us both prosperous and vulnerable. Although the impulse to trade often takes a backseat to xenophobia and war, Bernstein concludes that trade is ultimately a force for good among nations, and he argues that societies are far more successful and stable when they are involved in vigorous trade with their neighbors.

Lively, authoritative, and astonishing in scope, A Splendid Exchange is a riveting narrative that views trade and globalization not in political terms, but rather as an evolutionary process as old as war and religion – a historical constant – that will continue to foster the growth of intellectual capital, shrink the world, and propel the trajectory of the human species.

Author: William J. Bernstein
Narrator: Mel Foster
Duration: 17 hours 13 minutes
Released: 8 Sep 2005
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Language: English

User Review:

clarinetist penniless

After 17 hrs of listening, I have to say I learned a lot from this book. The content is really good, begins with ancient trade between Han Chinese and Roman, and ends with 20th century trades with some economic theoretical analysis. Majority of the book is storytelling, so its fairly easy for non-economy specialists. It provides ample of evidence on why trade is so important, how much it influenced the world from ancient time to recent, and how protectionism influenced the trade and the world as well.

Although the book has only one focus, which is international trade, it does present studies on both sides for and against trades. I personally do not perceive this book as promoting either propaganda.

I gave this book a 4-star rating. If I can rate on the content, it probably deserves a 5-star, but there are plenty of space for the narrator to improve the overall experience, especially in the first 2/3 of the book. That being said, although the narrator could have done better, the book remains comprehensible as it is currently narrated.