Professor Margaret Levi writes that we are in an era of Big Books, books with a magisterial sweep of the history of the world. All share the desire to explain why some countries flourish, why some start and stall on the path to development, and why others seem never to find the path at all. In sociology, Big Books date back at least to Karl Marx and Max Weber. Their publication has been more or less regular ever since, and their authors tend to elaborate the sort of grand and general theories that have come under increasing attack in recent decades, given methodological advances that have transformed analytic tastes.