Why are some nations rich? Why are some nations poor? This is the fundamental question that has dogged the economics profession since the days of Adam Smith. While some economists may be despondent at our lack of a single concrete answer, every economist worth their salt will concede that this is a question worthy of study. The host of new books and journal articles written on the topic every year are surely a testament to this. Sorting through the vast literature on economic growth can be a challenge, even for the most motivated of scholars. This problem can be compounded the further back in time one goes. As Douglass North (1990) repeatedly emphasized, history matters, and if one wants to get to the bottom of the question surrounding economic growth, one must become familiar with a lot of history. Economists, more than most, should be intimately aware of the quandaries posed by scarcity. With all this material out there, where is one to begin?