How did Einstein help create Eskom? Why can an Indonesian volcano explain the Great Trek? What do King Zwelethini and Charlemagne have in common?

These are some of the questions Johan Fourie explores in this entertaining, accessible economic history spanning everything from the human migration out of Africa 100 000 years ago to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom is an engaging guide to complex debates about the roots and reasons for prosperity, the march of opportunity versus the crushing boot of exploitation, and why the builders of societies – rather than the burglars ­– ultimately win out.

Join the author on this enriching journey through an African-centred history and the story of our long walk towards a brighter future.

Last week, I received the first copies of my first book. It was a surprisingly emotional moment. I’ve published several academic papers, but receiving your first book in print is, well, kinda nice.

What’s it about? As the blurb suggests, it explores one of the most important questions of our time – what are the roots of prosperity? – in 34 accessible, no-longer-than-2500-word chapters. We start 100 000 years ago with the human migration out of Africa, farm with the first hunter-gatherers, trade with the Israelites, sail with the Indian Ocean traders, join the richest man to ever live on the Hajj, invent a spinning wheel with James Hargreaves, share the emotional journey of Michelle Obama as she visits Gorée, drive a new car with Henry Ford, protest in Russia, industrialise in China and travel South Africa with Krotoa, Sol Plaatje, Hendrik van der Bijl and Albert Luthuli. We also mine bitcoin with the Icelanders and travel to mars with Elon Musk.

And there is much more.

I am grateful to Anne McCants, professor of History at MIT and president of the International Economic History Association, for her generous words:

In this deeply thoughtful but broadly accessible tour of global economic history from the time of our savanna-roaming ancestors to the pandemic, Fourie distills the essence of a vast body of recent economic history research into teachable nuggets that raise as many questions as they answer. The African focus of his presentation will be instructive to many, and the prose delightfully engaging for all. His commitment to understanding the historical roots of prosperity and ensuring its wide distribution in the future makes this also one of the most humane economic histories I have read.

Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom (Tafelberg, 2021) will be in South African bookshops (and on Kindle) in early April. It is currently only available for pre-order on Loot.

But keep watching this space. There are more surprises in store.