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From its dim origins among Germanic speakers in the British Isles, the English tongue spread for over a millennium through commerce, cultural exchange, and military conquest to become the de facto language of our modern, globalized world. From the Shanghai stock exchange to the United Nations to Internet message boards, whenever people reach out to one another across culture and geography, they do so overwhelmingly in English. Yet the remarkable story of its rise to global dominance has been curiously neglected by historians. In this compact and engaging narrative - the first on the subject to be written by a professional historian - the tale of English's rise to global ascendancy is given its proper historical due. Moving beyond the familiar, Western-centric histories of the language's native speakers, author David Northrup explores how and why English has been so thoroughly embraced across the world. Refreshingly, he also reestablishes simple human agency as a critical historical factor, showing that individuals acting in their own self-interest - rather than abstractions such as 'capitalism' or 'imperialism' - are what account for English's unprecedented worldwide reach.