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Publisher's Summary

A lively, inviting account of the history of economics, told through events from ancient to modern times and the ideas of great thinkers in the field.

What causes poverty? Are economic crises inevitable under capitalism? Is government intervention in an economy a helpful approach or a disastrous idea? The answers to such basic economic questions matter to everyone, yet the unfamiliar jargon and math of economics can seem daunting. This clear, accessible, and even humorous book is ideal for young listeners new to economics and to all listeners who seek a better understanding of the full sweep of economic history and ideas.

Economic historian Niall Kishtainy organizes short, chronological chapters that center on big ideas and events. He recounts the contributions of key thinkers including Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes, and others, while examining topics ranging from the invention of money and the rise of agrarianism to the Great Depression, entrepreneurship, environmental destruction, inequality, and behavioral economics. The result is a uniquely enjoyable volume that succeeds in illuminating the economic ideas and forces that shape our world.

©2017 Niall Kishtainy (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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What listeners say about A Little History of Economics

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Biggest big ideas, paced nicely in history stories

The account of each great thinker's big ideas is told so the person of ordinary intelligence and curiosity can readily get it. The finer points are not here, but that is not the point. This is a very fine overview. There is a special skill to telling complex ideas with this clarity and pacing. The narrator, one of my favorites reciting history (such as Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword), is a bit less of an optimal fit here, but quite fine.

60 people found this helpful

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Required Reading

This should be required reading for any young person. A brilliant overview of the never-ending debate on Economics. This is a great platform for further, deeper study into the sweet science.

42 people found this helpful

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Interesting but a dull narration

As a non-economics major, I find majority of the topics are interesting and want to explore them more in the future. But the narration is dull and poor even to the ears of a non English native speaker.

41 people found this helpful

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"A Little History of Economists"

The title is misleading. If you are looking for a book about the history of economic systems, from the command economies of the Bronze Age to how the pursuit of Spice drove how the Persian, Ottoman, and Portuguese managed their economies throughout the centuries, then this book is NOT for you.

This book spends about 20% of it's time on economics theories before the 1800's and follows that with 7.5 hours of explaining economists from the industrial age and their theories.

If you want a book that is a history the different ways economists have understood markets and capitalism over the last 250 years, then this book is for you. There are a few detours here and there away from Capitalism, but capitalism makes up about 75% of this book.

The author tries hard to not make this book a "Capitalism is the greatest and most perfect system in the history of mankind without any flaws." But saying that, he is not perfect and definitely fails to meet the goal of being perfectly impartial.

The biggest problem I have with this book is that he goes over all economics theories from the past few centuries, and does a very poor job telling the reader how some theories aged well and some we're completely detached from reality. This leads the reader to have no idea which ideas they heard about are good and which ones they heard about just for historical context.

Honestly not a terrible book, but just not great either. If you are curious of economic theories, good and bad, it's a great book. If you want to learn about the different economies of the world throughout history, this book does not deliver.

35 people found this helpful

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Wrong Narrator for Preachy Book

Normally, Steven Crossley is one of my favorites. This was just the wrong book for his style. Distracting.

The book itself was flawed. Language was as if the author was writing for seventh graders. It is possible to write an introductory book about a complex topic and do it successfully. This book is definitely not that.

16 people found this helpful

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A Clear and Absorbing Historical Overview

I got a lot of nourishment from Niall Kishtainy’s A Little History of Economics (2017). His history begins with the first philosopher-economists like Plato, moves through economist giants like Adam Smith, and finishes with contemporary figures like Thomas Piketty. Along the way it concisely references historical events like revolutions, wars, famines, bubbles, depressions, recessions, and so on. I like Kishtainy’s accounts of things like normative economics, Marxism, exploitation, free trade vs. protected trade, conspicuous consumption, game theory, creative destruction, speculators, “pegged” currencies, externalities, feminist economics, behavioral economics, rational expectations, auction theory, and so on. He explains difficult concepts clearly and uses helpful analogies (some from the economic theorists he’s referring to), like the bathtub, the parade, the football (soccer) team, the pineapple island, and the noisy trumpeter. He uses simple language to explain complex concepts. As an economics tyro, I learned a lot from his book (although I also feel that, because it’s a short book and I’m not good at retaining complex information, I will probably forget much of what I learned).

Kishtainy is rather balanced and unbiased in his history, presenting the ideas of key figures like Keynes and Friedman while showing opposing points of view or theories to demonstrate how complex the field is and how many different ways there are of understanding economics. Some figures he covers are really neat, like the Indian economist-philosopher Amartya Sen, who started looking at different ways to be poor or wealthy than traditional money/food ones, focused on “capabilities” rather than on mere freedoms, and also cast a light on gender inequality.

Kishtainy’s overall point is that economics is an important and interesting field, exploring in the context of scarcity “what do people need to be happy and fulfilled” and “what makes them truly thrive.” He succeeds in making us see that “Economics is a matter of life and death.” He also argues that we should use economics to solve specific problems, because it’s not so effective at solving big complex problems. And that economists should have cool heads and warm hearts.

The audiobook reader Stephen Crossley is fine: clear, personable, committed, without drawing attention to himself. Sometimes while listening to the audiobook, I wished I were reading the physical book so I could dip in and out of earlier or later chapters to firm up an understanding of points where Kishtainy says something like, “As we saw in chapter 29,” or “As we’ll see in chapter 36,” so I several times listened to chapters over again after finishing them once. The book is well-written and well-read enough that re-listening to chapters was interesting rather than a chore.

Readers new to economics—especially young readers—should find much of interest here, though older readers well-versed in them may not.

7 people found this helpful

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Perpetuation of nuts and factual incorrectness.

oversimplified collection of factual incorrect causal relationship that perpetuates common misunderstandings in the history of civilization. completely ignored anything that happened outside of the legend of greece-rome-western Europe-usa as the center of the universe.

6 people found this helpful

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Shallow and ethnocentric

Tries to cover too much history and doesn’t get in depth enough.
Would be acceptable as an introduction to Economics, except that it only covers events and people from Western Europe and America.
“Debt: The First 5000 Years” by David Graeber is a far better explanation of economic history.

6 people found this helpful

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a good education

other reviews have termed this book dry, but I found it fascinating. a detailed summary of the historical views and positions of economists dating back to ancient Greece. it illustrates the evolution of economic positions and policies in a way that reveals the motives and reasons behind such varying intellectuals as Plato, Marx, and Hayek. from mercantilism, to socialism and free market capitalism, I was surprised at the even-handedness with which the author dealt with the conflicting ideas. the goal here wasnt to convince, but simply to inform. obviously many ideas have failed throughout history, and the author goes into the reasons behind that failure.
economics is a continually growing and changing organism, and this book is a worthy introduction to it.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

I'm more than halfway through and it's easy to put it down.

The narrative style is one of a fairytale story for kids, but not a very enlightened one. I would have appreciated a more factual and academic account, stated with references, and aiming a little wider than the western view for a more worldly economic "history".

4 people found this helpful

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  • Alex
  • 04-27-17

An excellent introduction to Economics!

This book is a brilliant introductory guide to the study of economics and economic theorists. Over 40 chapters it covers a different topic and the economist(s) that based their work on that topic. I think that this book is great for someone who wants to better understand the complex world around them, whilst also giving a good foundation to anyone who wants to study economics academically.

It was also very well narrated.

4 people found this helpful

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  • M.E.
  • 11-27-18

A wonderfully clear history of economics

A wonderfully clear history of economics. Apparently completely impartial with others' hobby horses described but none ridden by the author.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Nicholas Corkhill
  • 09-15-17

Very patronising narrator

Good content, awful narrator. Just get some naturalistic narrators guys. I don't need this posh grandpa style dude condescending his way through the entire book. Irritating. Maybe a woman?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Daren Knight
  • 07-23-17

The narrator ruined this

I couldn't see this audiobook through. Although I'm interested in the subject matter, the narrator ruined any enjoyment that could be had from learning. It's as though he's pitched his style of narrating a book on economics at an audience of 4 and 5 year olds!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-12-19

excellent comprehensive review of economics.

great. but now I require 15 words to complete this review. how tiresome is that?

1 person found this helpful

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  • Federico
  • 03-29-19

Great intro

Great introduction to economics! The book is a gentle tour across the main ideas in economics

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adele
  • 11-16-18

Easy to listen to intro to economics

This is not a text book, but is a great travel through the history of thinking in economics. I’ve learned loads.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Arthur
  • 09-26-22

one of must listen

Very well written. And voice of reader is calming :) learn a lot from this book. definitely recomending it.

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  • Jason Solloway
  • 09-21-22

Where is Thomas Sowell.

A great whistle stop tour of economics and I was surprised not to hear about Thomas Sowell…… a trick missed I thinks.

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  • tony
  • 08-25-22

absolutely fantasic

This is a worthy addition to my collection I'll certainly listen to this again. The writing and the performance were brilliant.

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  • Chris
  • 04-03-18

brilliant

simply explained and artfully told. I can highly recommend this one to anyone with a thirst for knowledge

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-24-22

Loved it, will go back to this many times

10/10 easy to listen and understand. Eye opening accounts of history you probably never heard about!

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