Walt Rostow wanted his landmark contribution to modernization theory, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-communist Manifesto (1960), to offer an alternative to Marxist analysis, and in service of that effort he sought to replace class with nation as the agent of history. Britain figured prominently in the resulting account, functioning as everything from a trailblazing pioneer to an idiosyncratic anomaly to a cautionary tale for weak-kneed Americans, but it never explicitly offered the model for other nations to follow that historians today associate with the text. In explaining how that misreading came to dominate discussions of Stages, this essay rethinks a US historiography that collapses modernization theory with American exceptionalism, and a UK historiography premised on the claim that Britain made the modern world. Attending to the function of Britain in Stages reinserts British history into postwar conceptions of world history - not as a paradigmatic case, but nevertheless as a significant one.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science