from U.S. Foreign Policy Program

God and Gold

Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

An illuminating account by Walter Russell Mead of the birth and rise of the global political and economic system that, sustained first by Britain and now by America, created the modern world.

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Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Read an excerpt of God and Gold.

Since Oliver Cromwell's day, the English-speakers have seen their enemies as haters of liberty and God who care nothing for morality, who will do anything to win, and who rely on a treacherous fifth column to assure victory.

Those enemies, from Catholic Spain and Louis XIV to the Nazis, communists, and al-Qaeda, held similar beliefs about their British and American rivals, but we see that though the Anglo-Americans have lost small wars here and there, they have won the major conflicts. So far.

Walter Russell Mead, one of our most distinguished foreign policy experts, makes clear that the key to the predominance of the United States and England has been the individualistic ideology of the prevailing Anglo-American religion. Mead explains how this helped create a culture uniquely adapted to capitalism, a system under which both countries thrived. We see how, as a result, the two nations were able to create the liberal, democratic system whose economic and social influence continues to grow around the world.

The stakes today are higher than ever; technological progress makes new and terrible weapons easier for rogue states and terror groups to develop and deploy. Where some see an end to history and others a clash of civilizations, Mead sees the current conflicts in the Middle East as the latest challenge to the liberal, capitalist, and democratic world system that the Anglo-Americans are trying to build. What we need now, he says, is a diplomacy of civilizations based on a deeper understanding of the recurring conflicts between the liberal world system and its foes. In practice, this means that Americans generally, and especially the increasingly influential evangelical community, must develop a better sense of America's place in the world.

With wit, verve, and stunning insight, Mead recounts what is, in effect, the story of a centuries-long war between the English-speaking peoples and their enemies. Sustained by control of the oceans that surround them, the British and their American heirs built a global system of politics, power, investment, and trade over the past three hundred years. Along the way, the two nations developed a sophisticated grand strategy that brought the English-speaking powers to a pinnacle of global power and prestige unmatched in the history of the world.

Mead's emphasis on the English-speaking world as the chief hero (and sometimes villain) in modern history changes the way we see the world. Authoritative and lucid, God and Gold weaves history, literature, philosophy, and religion together into an eminently important work—a dazzling book that helps us understand the world we live in and our tumultuous times.

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Reviews and Endorsements

[An] ingenious critique ... Mead enlivens the text with numerous amusing and illustrative anecdotes, artful literary allusions and helpful invocations of great historians and philosophers. ... A remarkable piece of historical analysis bound to provoke discussion and argument in foreign-policy circles.

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Walter Russell Mead, among our greatest writers and experts on global affairs, brilliantly tackles one of the biggest historical questions of our age: what accounts for the ascendancy of the British and American systems during the past three centuries? He ties together religion, individualism, capitalism, and liberal democracy in a brilliant manner, and then proceeds with caution to assess what the future holds. His sweeping and compelling book will join the handful that puts in context the political and cultural trends of our era.

Walter Isaacson, author, Einstein: His Life and Universe

Walter Russell Mead has done it again. With his distinctive sweep and penetration, America's premier archeologist of ideas and their consequences unearths the cultural roots of large political movements and developments. Readers of this scintillating volume will see the modern world afresh.

George F. Will, Washington Post opinion writer

Walter Russell Mead has written yet another fascinating, thought-provoking book about America's global role. Mead weaves together history, theology, economics and politics to tell the story of the rise of the English-speaking peoples and the world that they made. Churchill would have approved.

Fareed Zakaria, author, The Future of Freedom

Walter Mead's new book is both delightful and outrageous: delightful in his mischievous, well-chosen use of poems, pamphlets, and political speeches to illustrate his arguments; and outrageous in the proper sense of the word–for it will outrage lots of readers: American know-nothings who assume life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness only began in 1776; liberal Brits who will be furious at the idea that they are the true and only forebears of our neocon obsession with changing the world, and making a profit from it; and foreigners everywhere, especially in French-speaking and Arabic-speaking countries, who will have their worst historical myth confirmed: that the Anglo-Saxons have been intent on dominating world affairs for at least the past four centuries and have no plans to give up the habit now.

Paul Kennedy, historian, Yale University