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To Govern the Globe
World Orders and Catastrophic Change

In a sweep through seven centuries from 1350 to 2050, the work explains how catastrophes-- pandemics, wars, and climate crisis--have shaped the destiny of empires and world orders.

In a tempestuous narrative that sweeps across five continents and seven centuries, this book explains how a succession of catastrophes—from the devastating Black Death of 1350 through the coming climate crisis of 2050—has produced a relentless succession of rising empires and fading world orders.

During the long centuries of Iberian and British imperial rule, the quest for new forms of energy led to the development of the colonial sugar plantation as a uniquely profitable kind of commerce. In a time when issues of race and social justice have arisen with pressing urgency, the book explains how the plantation’s extraordinary profitability relied on a production system that literally worked the slaves to death, creating an insatiable appetite for new captives that made the African slave trade a central feature of modern capitalism for over four centuries.

After surveying past centuries roiled by imperial wars, national revolutions, and the struggle for human rights, the closing chapters use those hard-won insights to peer through the present and into the future.  By rendering often-opaque environmental science in lucid prose, the book explains how climate change and changing world orders will shape the life opportunities for younger generations, born at the start of this century, during the coming decades that will serve as the signposts of their lives—2030, 2050, 2070, and beyond.

Reviews
  • "A fascinating look at the rise and fall of empires and what it means for world orders. From colonial exploitation and capitalist ravaging of people and planet to arms racing and warfare, Alfred McCoy offers a deep dive into how this history has led to the climate crisis, and the impacts it will have on our future." —Ray Acheson

    “In an age where most scholars concentrate on a limited specialty, no one sees a bigger picture more brilliantly than Alfred McCoy. In this powerful, enlightening, and frightening book he gives us a magisterial view of the empires of the past—and of the force in our future which promises to dwarf them all.” —Adam Hochschild

    "To Govern the Globe is history on an epic scale -- sweeping, provocative, and unsparing in its judgments.  Alfred McCoy's immensely readable narrative spans centuries, charting the rise and fall of successive world orders down to our own present moment shaped by China's emergence as a great power and the blight of climate change." —Andrew Bacevich