Landes mainly advocated the cultural hypothesis in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1999).
David S. Landes received an A.B. from the City College of New York in 1942
and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1953. He held various appointments
in the fields of history, political science, and economics. In 1964, he became
professor of history in Harvard. David Landes is now retired; he is emeritus
professor of economics at Harvard University (Coolidge Professor of History
and Professor of Economics).
David S. Landes should not be confounded with David C. Lindberg. The latter
is an historian of medieval science, author of Engineering in the
Works related to the European miracle:
(1) 1969: The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change
and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750
to the Present, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,
(2) 1983: Revolution in Time Clocks and the Making of the Modern World, W.W. Norton, New York,
(3) 1999: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some
Are So Rich and Some So Poor, W.W. Norton, New York,
Landes' personal and bibliographical presence on the web is quite scarce. I found only his empty Harvard
homepage, still under construction (Dec 00), and a short notice by Harvard.
Landes' books and thought, however, are pervasive on the web.
Here, I reproduced a brilliant review
of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, by Joel Mokyr.
My personal and subjective view of Landes' contribution
to the Grand Question
Very poor. A few stodgy stereotypes: tropical heat making people lazy,
a more dynamic European "culture", with whatever is meant by this word.
Worse, Landes betrays his reader by promising to come up with an explanation
for the Western mystery. He complacently describes and describes again
the course of history, and seldom offers explanations about the dynamics.
Furthermore, whenever he tries, he constantly contradicts himself,
without noticing, thus further confusing the reader. He alternately and
in full disorder propounds cultural, climatic, external and randomness
This is all the more a pity since his wide scholarship ought to allow him
a better insight than many other thinkers. My personal hypothese for this
failure is that Landes lacks a synthetic mind. This is already clear in
Clocks and the Making of the Modern World, a textbook filled with
a lively and richly documented history of the clocks, but
painfully contradictory and incomplete as soon as he tries to summarize
or to explain large-scale trends: lots of details, no synthese, countradictory
statements, already in 1983.
Some selected comments about Wealth and Poverty.