The Cambridge History of "Capitalism"

Peter Temin

NBER Working Paper No. 20658
Issued in November 2014
NBER Program(s):   DAE

This review essay of the two-volume Cambridge History of Capitalism (2014), edited by Larry Neal and Jeffrey G. Williamson, is divided into three parts. First, I describe three chapters from the second volume that I recommend for all economists to add depth to their understanding of the world economy today. Robert C. Allen analyzes the world distribution of income; Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung discuss the history of business groups; and Peter Lindert surveys private and public programs to help the poor. In each case, they analyze historical backgrounds that illuminate current issues. Second, I criticize the definition of capitalism used in these volumes as too expansive to be useful. I argue that this definition mars the essays in first volume by stimulating a fruitless search for capitalism in the millennium before the Industrial Revolution. Third, I describe the essays in this reference work starting from the most recent and ending with those about antiquity.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20658

Published: Peter Temin, 2015. "The Cambridge History of “Capitalism”," Journal of Economic Literature, vol 53(4), pages 996-1016.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Gokhale, Kotlikoff, and Sabelhaus w5571 Understanding the Postwar Decline in U.S. Saving: A Cohort Analysis
Temin w20107 Economic History and Economic Development: New Economic History in Retrospect and Prospect
Kerr and Nanda w20676 Financing Innovation
Michalopoulos and Papaioannou w20513 On the Ethnic Origins of African Development Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization
Stiglitz w20670 Unemployment and Innovation
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us