Gifts of Mars: Warfare and Europe's Early Rise to Riches


Today, per capita income differences around the globe are large - varying by as much as a factor of 35 across countries (Hall and Jones 1999). These differentials mostly reflect the "Great Divergence" (Sam Huntingon) - the fact that Western Europe and former European colonies grew rapidly after 1800, while other countries grew much later or stagnated. What is less well-known is that a "First Divergence" preceded the Great Divergence: Western Europe surged ahead of the rest of the world long before technological growth became rapid. Europe in 1500 was already twice as rich on a per capita basis as Africa, and one-third richer than most of Asia (Maddison 2007). In this essay, we explain how Europe's tumultuous politics and deadly penchant for warfare translated into a sustained advantage in per capita incomes.