Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity


Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
6.4 X 9.3 X 2.2 inches | 2.8 pounds

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About the Author

Walter Scheidel is the Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, and a Kennedy-Grossman Fellow in Human Biology at Stanford University. His many books include The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton). He lives in Palo Alto, California. Twitter @WalterScheidel


"In a masterpiece of global history spanning over two millennia, Walter Scheidel tells us why western Europe remained politically fragmented after the collapse of Rome, why the rest of the world gravitated toward empire, and why that enduring political contrast explains the origins of sustained economic growth. A fascinating book."--Philip T. Hoffman, author of Why Did Europe Conquer the World?
"Escape from Rome is a brilliant and very important book by a great scholar at the top of his powers. This is a wholly convincing and innovative account, logically driven and based on stunning scholarship. It will become a classic."--John A. Hall, coauthor of The Paradox of Vulnerability: States, Nationalism, and the Financial Crisis
"Astonishingly learned, hugely ambitious, and deeply thoughtful, the indefatigable Walter Scheidel has written another innovative and provocative book that will turn global history upside down."--Joel Mokyr, author of A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy
"If a new Roman Empire had appeared in medieval Europe, it would have aborted modernity and everything would be different today! This is the remarkable, but tightly argued, conclusion of Walter Scheidel's virtuoso exploration of counterfactual world histories."--David Christian, author of Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History
"Lucid and provocative, this book makes an iconoclastic case for why Europe's luckiest break was losing its only internal empire. A must-read for anyone curious about the long shadow of Rome."--Sheilagh Ogilvie, author of The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis
"Walter Scheidel has done more to reveal the hidden patterns of human existence than any other historian of our era. Quite simply, he has no peer. Erudite, enlightening, and wonderfully provocative, Escape from Rome is destined to become a classic."--Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
"Escape from Rome presents a fascinating account of why modernity appeared first in western Europe--it was precisely the failure of the Roman project and not its legacy that allowed the emergence of a decentralized and competitive system that became the ultimate platform for modern economic growth. A challenging and counterintuitive hypothesis."--Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man
"A bold, provocative, and brilliant book in which Walter Scheidel does not just ask big questions--but sets out to answer them too. And better still, it's immensely enjoyable to read as well."--Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
"Scheidel marshals his facts with verve and force . . . . the abiding impression left by reading this book is not that human progress was inevitable - even at such a bloody cost - but that it was profoundly fragile."---Robert Colvile, The Times
"Walter Scheidel's Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity is an outstanding, epic history of the fall of the Roman Empire and rise of the European West."---Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard
"One of the Financial Times' Best Books of 2019: Economics"
"One of the Evening Standard's Best Books of 2019"
"Scheidel makes a bracing case, backed by every counterfactual tool of contemporary scholarship, against resurgent European empire at any time. . . . What did the Romans do for us? Scheidel does not give the usual answers."---Peter Stothard, Financial Times
"Thought-provoking. . . . Impressive."---P.G. Wallace, Choice Reviews
"Escape from Rome deserves to be taken very seriously . . . . this is a fiercely intelligent, closely argued book."---Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement
"A challenging, detailed and thought-provoking study of how the end of Rome benefited the West rather than the reverse."---Richard Owen, The Tablet
"Fascinating and arresting."---Stephen Davies, Reason Magazine
"Finalist for the PROSE Award in Archaeology and Ancient History, Association of American Publishers"
"Insightful. . . an outstanding modern summation of a strand of research which goes back at least as far as Montesquieu and David Hume."---Mark Koyama, Journal of Economic Literature
"A tour de force of world history."---Tony Jones, The Christian Century
"Escape from Rome is a well-written survey of an enormous literature on the history of the world. . . . It is fun and interesting to read. . . . An admirable book."---Peter Temin, EH.Net
"A sweeping academic survey comparing empires and eras. . . . Escape From Rome makes bold claims about the nature of empire and the roots of the modern world and backs them up with thoughtful analysis."---Dominic Lynch, America