Geographies of Modern Capitalism

Though progress has been neither uninterrupted nor straightforward, the period since the last quarter of the nineteenth-century has seen the global triumph of capitalism. Indeed, the pace of change accelerated markedly during the twentieth century: the transformation of Western economies and societies that occurred during the 1900s as a result of immense technological advances is utterly without precedent. But there have also been major setbacks and catastrophes. Though providing a short term economic stimulus while conflict ensued, the wake of both the world wars of 1914 –18 and 1939– 45 saw severe disruption. Indeed, the global economic depression between 1929 and 1933 put a sharp brake on progress. Notwithstanding severe post war dislocation, after 1945, the motor of capitalism soon burst into renewed life and growing prosperity lasted, almost uninterrupted, until 1973. Alongside, and extending beyond, the catastrophic impacts of war and economic slump, capitalism also faced other mighty challenges in the 1900s: the end of empire, the rise of communism and fascism, and (more recently) the Islamic revival. It is to this more recent period in the history of capitalism, namely that since the last quarter of the nineteenth-century, that attention is now turned.