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Douglass North once emphasized that development takes centuries, but he did not have a theory of how and why change occurs. This groundbreaking book advances such a theory by examining in detail why England and Spain developed so slowly from 1000 to 1800. A colonial legacy must go back centuries before settlement, and this book points to key events in England and Spain in the 1260s to explain why Mexico lagged behind the United States economically in the twentieth century. Based on the integration of North's institutional approach with Mancur Olson's collective action theory, Max Weber's theory of value change, and North's focus on dominant coalitions based on rent and military in In the Shadow of Violence, this theory of change leads to exciting new historical interpretations, including the crucial role of the merchant-navy alliance in England and the key role of George Washington's control of the military in 1787.