These fourteen essays covering a wide range of subjects of great current interest reflect the continuous evolution of the author's thought from to Range and flexibility characterize Alexander Gerschenkron's dynamic approach to Europe's industrial history. Connecting evolution in individual countries with their degree of economic backwardness, he presents the industrialization of the continent as a "case of unity in diversity," thus offering a cogent alternative, supported by case studies, to the traditional view of industrialization as monotonous repetition of the same process from country to country. Brought together for the first time, these essays were originally published in specialized periodicals in the United States and abroad. Explaining and systematizing the elements of creative innovation in industrial history, Gerschenkron opens new paths of research and poses a number of pertinent questions for the problem of economic development in backward countries. His versatile analysis not only includes construction of ingenious industrial output indices and fruitful historical hypotheses on the index-number problem, but also original insights gleaned from a study of Soviet novels and a brilliant critique of Doctor Zhivago.
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Alexander Gerschenkron and his ideas have had, like excellent wine, a remarkable maturing in recent years. Rare is the sophisticated course in political economy that does not assign his model of relative backwardness as a required reading. Rarer still is the doctoral student in economic history who remains uninfluenced by his beguiling hypotheses about the process of historical change within Europe since the Industrial Revolution. Fortunately, as a consequence of a wonderful biography, The Fly Swatter , by Nicholas Dawidoff, New York: Pantheon, his grandson, we know much more about his life than we had previously. Born in Odessa in , he died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in His early life was eventful. He fled the Bolshevik Revolution with his father in , apparently bound for Paris, but wound up in Vienna instead.
Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective
Born in Odessa , then part of the Russian Empire , Gerschenkron fled the country during the Russian Civil War in to Austria , where he attended the University of Vienna , earning a doctorate in After the Anschluss in , he emigrated to the United States. Gerschenkron was born in Odessa into an elite family of the Russian intelligentsia. When he was 16, he and his father left Russia during the period of the Bolshevik Revolution. They eventually settled in Vienna , Austria. There he taught himself languages including, German and Latin. In , he enrolled in the University of Vienna's school of economics, graduating in