Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy

A lively history of the world economy seen through the crucial inventions that shaped it.

I’ve tried to paint a picture of economic change by telling the stories of the ideas, people, and tools that had far-reaching and unexpected consequences for all of us. Drawing from the hugely popular BBC radio program and podcast “50 Things That Made The Modern Economy ,” I discuss the inventions that have transformed the ways we work, play and live. From the plough to artificial intelligence, from Gillette’s disposable razor to Ikea’s Billy bookcase, I recount each invention’s own memorable story and introduce you to the characters who developed them, profited from them, and were ruined by them.

New ideas and inventions have woven, tangled or sliced right through the invisible economic web that surrounds us every day. From the bar code to double-entry bookkeeping, covering ideas as solid as concrete or as intangible as the limited liability company, this book not only shows us how new ideas come about, it also shows us their unintended consequences – for example, how the gramophone introducing radically unequal pay in the music industry, or how the fridge shaped the politics of developing countries across the globe.

Praise for the radio series:

“I love these fact-filled micro-documentaries, steeped in history… A masterclass in socioeconomic storytelling.” – The Financial Times

“A marvel of brevity, clarity and original thinking.” – The Daily Telegraph

“They are real masterpieces of brevity and audio storytelling… brilliant sideways glances… I’ve been surprised by every episode.” – Monocle Arts Review

“This is what BBC radio is for. The series is utterly compelling and low-key… Just brilliant ideas, told simply. A wonderful, wonderful programme.” – The Times

“Harford’s script is immaculate and so is his presentation.” – The Times of India