Regular price: $45.50

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
  • Get access to the Member Daily Deal
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

The widely acclaimed best seller that boldly and lucidly puts our economic and political dilemmas into the perspective of world history.

In this wide-ranging and carefully argued survey, Paul Kennedy considers the subject of national and international power. Focusing on the "modern" or post-Renaissance period, his straightforward approach examines how various powers rose and fell over the five centuries since the formation of the "new monarchies" of Western Europe. Kennedy's surprising observations and penetrating conclusions have earned this classic work a deserved, lasting place in the historical canon.

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers continues to give us applicable parallels in thinking about our world today.

"A work of almost Toynbeean sweep.... When a scholar as careful and learned as Mr. Kennedy is prompted by contemporary issues to reexamine the great processes of the past, the result can only be an enhancement of our historical understanding.... When the study is written as simply and attractively as this work is, its publication may have a great and beneficient impact. It is to be hoped that Mr. Kennedy's will have one, at a potentially decisive moment in America's history." (Michael Howard, The New York Times Book Review)

"Important, learned, and lucid.... Paul Kennedy's great achievement is that he makes us see our current international problems against a background of empires that have gone under because they were unable to sustain the material cost of greatness; and he does so in a universal historical perspective of which Ranke would surely have approved." (James Joll, The New York Review of Books)

"His strategic-economic approach provides him with the context for a shapely narrative.... Professor Kennedy not only exploits his framework eloquently, he also makes use of it to dig deeper and explore the historical contexts in which some 'power centers' prospered.... But the most commanding purpose of his project...is the lesson he draws from 15 centuries of statecraft to apply to the present scene.... [The book's] final section is for everyone concerned with the contemporary political scene." (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times)

"Kennedy gives epic meaning to the nation's relative economic and industrial decline." (Newsweek)

©2018 Paul Kennedy (P)2018 Random House Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    26
  • 4 Stars
    16
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    27
  • 4 Stars
    11
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    26
  • 4 Stars
    9
  • 3 Stars
    7
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1
Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Bit Dry

The book can be very informative and is incredibly detailed. The book itself is from like 1988, so the moments when it mentions the USSR can be very odd. It starts a bit late for my taste and completely glosses over 1500-1800 in like the first 1/5 of the book. So its mostly a story of the world from 1900-1988. It is very dry at times, so don't expect something that will keep you awake.

I enjoyed it, but not that much. And since dry history books are my taste, that should say something about how dry this is.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • Highland Park, IL, USA
  • 08-26-18

Worth 5 Stars, but Dated

I would have easily given this title five out of five stars, but I gave it four because the material is so dated. The book was published in the late 1980s, and therefore the developments of the last three decades are either missing or made the subject of best-guess projections. That, too, is interesting because some of the author's projections are very close to what really happened.

The first half of the book is without question excellent. The author reviews the large-scale causes of the rise, decline and fall of empires. Most histories really focus on military affairs, and there's nothing wrong with that; but Kennedy adds an economic element that goes far beyond the developments on the battlefield. For example, one of the distressing thoughts that the book presents is the uncanny parallel between the Spanish/Austrian Hapsburg Empire and the U.S. during the Cold War. The Hapsburgs were responsible for keeping Europe safe from Islamic invaders on two fronts. This effort consumed most of the wealth in silver and gold that Spain collected from its new conquests in the Americas. During the Cold War, the U.S. was in a similar position, with military commitments around the world, guarding against Communism's feared spread. During the Cold War, Japan and Germany, the Unted States' erstwhile enemies during WWII, grew into major industrial and commercial powers while benefiting from the protection of the American defense umbrella. After the fall of Constantinople, France, England, the German principalities and the Netherlands grew economically while defense spending consumed Spain's prosperity.

30 hours is quite a book, but the narrator is very good, unless you don't like British accents. I found him to be very clear, and once you get used to some British pronunciations (e.g., CON-troversy as con-TRAH-versy), it's a very easy narration to listen to.

This book could use an update through the 2010s, and if someone had written an epilogue of this kind I would have given it 5 stars. But despite its publishing date, it's certainly worth a listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

EXCELLENT!

A wonderful, unbiased account of the recent history of the great powers.
Excellent narration as well.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A lot of history

It was very informative, but I had a hard time getting into it. It was a lot of well-researched information that would be really helpful for someone looking for the details, but it seemed to be missing a story quality that would have made it more engaging.