A central question of economic history since the nineteenth century has been why capitalist development (often identified with the transformations of modernity) took place in Western Europe and not elsewhere especially in China and Islamic lands which experienced early commercial expansion and the beginnings of industrial development. This question coincided with the establishment of European rule in non-European regions, particularly in Asia. Underlining the difference between the West and the others and acknowledging the superiority of one over the other became indispensable to the legitimation of the European presence in, and domination over, non-European regions. Accordingly, the writing of non-European histories was subjected to terms of comparison with Europe and trapped in a binary vision of world history, contrasting what Europe had with what others lacked. At issue were divergent institutional responses to changing conditions of trade and production. European responses were understood to have been conducive to economic growth and development resulting in Europe’s prosperity and progress, while inappropriate responses by non-European societies were the reason for their poverty and lack of progress. The result was a dichotomous view of world history with cultural factors, religious or political, often serving to explain differences.