THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 by Paul Kennedy

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000

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KIRKUS REVIEW

He fry historical analysis investigating the' extent to which economic health affected the rise and fall of military powers in the last half-millenium; by the author of The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1976). Kennedy's (History/Yale) major concern is with the interaction between economics and strategy. Basically, he argues that ""the relative strengths of the leading nations in world affairs never remain constant, principally because of the uneven rate of growth among different societies and of the technological and organizational breakthroughs which bring a greater advantage to one society than to another."" As a result, the rise and fall of great powers show a distinct correlation in the long term between productive and revenue-raising capacities on the one hand and military strength on the other. Thus, the mastery of the Hapsburgs for a century and a half was undermined by their long-term overextension, leading to the emergence of a multi-polar world (France, Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia), the leaders of which, in turn, were not able to turn industrialism to their benefit, as were Russia and the US with their great resources advantage. This new bi-polarist world, though, is now under attack by the economic revitalization of Japan, the EEC, and parts of the Third World. Ultimately, then, Kennedy sees acausal link between great powers' economic rise and fall and their growth and decline as military powers, although not an absolutely determining link; he acknowledges geography, military organization, and political alliance as other important causal factors. Backed with a dozen maps and four-dozen tables, the history here is solid; but Kennedy's thesis, in the end, is more commonsensical than original, and might have been argued in substantially fewer than this rome's nearly 500 pages.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Random House