DeLong has published a portion of what appears to be a textbook in process. He starts by exploring the The Needham question, though he doesn't seem to know of Needham (I sent him a link). This paragraph is typical:
Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
...By the beginning of the twentieth century it looked like that Malthusian crisis had arrived. The more than 300 million people of late nineteenth-century China had no mechanized farm machinery and no industry-produced nitrogen fertilizers. They were crowded into the wet, arable eastern slice of what is "China" on today's maps, with the median family of 6 farming perhaps 4 acres at a time when the Radical Republicans were still hoping to somehow find 40 acres plus a mule for each family of American ex-slaves. Average adult height was, we think, significantly under five feet. There were enough landless and other desperate peasants that perhaps ten million joined the Taiping Rebellion of Hong Xiuquan--who declared himself the younger brother of Jesus Christ after repeatedly failing the shengyan exam--which burned through the Yangtze valley for nearly fifteen years. Perhaps ten million, 3% of China's population, died in that war alone....
It's a fascinating essay. I'm looking forward to the book.
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