From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives, by Jeffrey E. Garten
Five out of five stars
In all such books where a small number of historical figures are selected for profiling there is a lot of room for debate over the ten selected. The basis of the selection here is the impact that the people had over the advance of globalization and those selected are:
*) Genghis Khan
*) Prince Henry
*) Robert Clive
*) Mayer Amschel Rothschild
*) Cyrus Field
*) John D. Rockefeller
*) Jean Monnet
*) Margaret Thatcher
*) Andrew Grove
*) Deng Xiaoping
There is no question that all of the selections had a dramatic effect on the trend towards the international interdependence called globalization. People not thoroughly schooled in history may at first glance not understand why some of these people made the list. Once you read their profiles there will be no doubt in your mind that they were a major player.
In these deep dives into the actions of these people and their consequences, the reader will learn aspects that generally do not make it into the history books. For example, all students learn about the “Mongol hordes” that killed everyone that opposed them. Yet, few learn that Genghis Khan also established an efficient communication system that spanned thousands of miles and that he developed a knowledge base that led to technical advances as well as the dramatic spread of learning from the Pacific shores of Asia to Eastern Europe to the Persian Gulf.
As a follower of history and technical advancement, I was pleased to see the inclusion of Cyrus Field in this collection. One of the most amazing historical facts was the role of the telegraph in speeding up communications. When the Trans-Atlantic cable was finally laid down and functional in 1866 it took only seven minutes for a message from Queen Victoria to reach the U. S. President. A little more than 50 years earlier the Battle of New Orleans was fought well after a peace treaty was signed due to the slow pace of communications. The laying of the Trans-Atlantic cable was also an instance where the technology had to be invented as the project was being done.
The final chapter contains some interesting insights into the mentality of people that change the world. Most of these people had a major streak of ruthlessness in the persona. There is the quote from the nineteenth-century British historian Lord Acton, “Great men are almost always bad.” Alter it to remove the sexist bias and it is the best short summary of how these people acted to change the world.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.