Walter Russell Mead, the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of Mortal Splendor and Special Providence, which won the Lionel Gelber Award for best book on international affairs in English for the year 2002. He is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times; has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker; and is a regular reviewer of books on the United States for Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Mead also lectures regularly on American foreign policy. He lives in New York City.
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In God and Gold you say that the conventional view of modern history is all wrong that it is like a production of Hamlet with no Prince of Denmark. What does this mean?
The conventional wisdom says that the big story in world politics for the last 300 years has been the rise and fall of Europe. I think thats wrong. The real story of world history has been something else: the birth, development and continuing rise of an international system of finance, politics, power and trade resting first on the power of Britain and now on the power of the United States. Despite Americas troubles under the Bush administration, that global system is more powerful today than ever.
God and Gold says that the history of the modern world can be summed up in ten letters. What letters?
This global system, which I call the maritime system because it is based on global trade and sea power, was actually invented by the Dutch almost 400 years ago. Think of this system as the software that runs the global economy. The Dutch introduced version 1.0 in about 1600. The British introduced version 2.0 in 1700 and the United States introduced version 3.0 during World War II. Ever since 1600 the country that sets ...
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