William J. Bernstein – A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World
Probably the best book of its kind. A global history of trade from ourearliest hunter-gatherer days until the present. Bernstein tells some good stories, and knows his economics. He calls out bad actors, such as the Spanish, Dutch, and especially the Portuguese and Belgians. Unlike some other scholars, he doesn’t obsess over them, preferring to attempt to understand than to preach.
Bernstein also highlights the importance of non-human factors such as disease in the story of trade; people have exchanged more than just goods, ideas, and soldiers over the years. Bernstein has a general ethos of kindness and openness, but doesn’t come across as particularly ideological. Pairs well with Douglas Irwin’s Against the Tide, which is an intellectual history of trade, rather than Bernstein’s cultural and narrative history.