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For most of its history Europe was a thoroughly average part of the world: poor, uncouth, technologically and culturally backward. By contrast, China was always far richer, more sophisticated and advanced. Yet it was Europe that first became modern, and by the nineteenth century China was struggling to catch up. This book explains why. Why did Europe succeed and why was China left behind? The answer, as we will see, does not only solve a long-standing historical puzzle, it also provides an explanation of the contemporary success of East Asia, and it shows what is wrong with current theories of development and modernization.