I’m getting into an exchange with Luis below about the rise of European domination. Unfortunately with historical questions I can’t “prove” my case as in mathematics, nor can I cite an empirical result that is extremely generalizable as in much of the natural sciences. I’m trying to describe a distribution of facts over time and space, and I can’t really make my own position clear without plugging into Luis’ mind all my priors (the inverse might apply from Luis’ perspective). That takes time and is basically impossible in blog-format, though I’ve had better success I think in face-to-face conversation because the per unit density of data which can be transmitted quickly. So, two quick points.
First, a “meta” point is that bias is a big problem in these sorts of scholarly fields. Instead of using the standard European example, I would point to an exchange I had with my friend Aziz about the term “the West.” Aziz objected to the term since it emerged in reference to “solely” in reference to its opposition to Islam. From a Muslim perspective I can see how this might be so. But I replied that the West, what was Western Christendom, was contrasted with other cultures which took the role of Other (Orthodoxy, Scandinavian & Baltic paganism), so it is false to claim that the identity emerged solely as a contrast with Islam (from a Muslim perspective the Islamic world is what really matters, so it might seem that way). Additionally, I went on to suggest that the identity was also positive and endogenous, the polities of the West conceived of themselves self-consciously as heirs of the Western Roman Imperial tradition and a set of Catholic monarchies. One can see tendency across many societies; in South Asia Hindus and Muslims tend to view each other as antipodes of the ontology of identities to the point where both groups caricature the others because their primary perceived intersection is with themselves. World history has perspective, as any American who knows about the French and Indian War but looks at you blankly when you mention the Seven Years War could tell you.
Secondly, I concretely recommend three books which offer a perspective on recent global history highly larded with social and economic data….
After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405 is a rather balanced treatment of social, economic and narrative elements. The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 is simlar to After Tamerlane, but with a European focus. It is a good complement to global history because it focuses on the early modern European period before the takeoff of the 19th century. Finally, Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium is a more straightforward economic history. Its strength isn’t a tight narrative, but the assault of cliometrics which fixes the background of the palette against which the authors tell the tale.