1. To the Brink of Innovation

World Energy—A Rapid Tour of the Past 200 Years

From the beginning of human history until about 1750, a common date for the start of the Industrial Revolution, the world was poor, and societies were equal—or at least very roughly so, and dramatically so compared to the state of the world today.1 Over the past 250 years, some nations have succeeded in building economic institutions and deploying technological innovations to facilitate economic growth. These movements have been the primary drivers of a rapid increase in wealth that was initially concentrated in the United Kingdom and soon spread to other early-moving nations. More recently, other societies have adopted institutions and technologies that permit economic ...

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