However, most writers had abandoned the favorable balance of trade theory in its simple form by the end of the seventeenth century. Some argued that the principle was impractical as a policy goal, as it was impossible to account for a trade surplus in quantitative terms. Others found problems on more theoretical grounds — that is, they directly or indirectly admitted to the argument later known as the specie-flow argument. Instead, from the 1690s writers such as Josiah Child (1630 – 1699), Charles Davenant (1656 – 1714), and Nicholas Barbon (1640 – 1698) developed a new idea that alternatively has been called the theory of foreign-paid incomes , the labor balance of trade theory, or the export of work theory. Instead of holding on to the dogma that a country should receive an inflow of bullion through the balance of trade, these authors stressed that a country should export products with as much value-added content as possible and import as little of such products as they could. The profit would come from the fact that the buyer — Spain, Portugal , or other countries — would not only pay England for its raw materials, but also for its laborers.
However, most of the cultural-evolution guys (Henrich, Mesoudi, Boyd, Richerson) are quantitatively orientated anthropologists who are more comfortable trucking in evolutionary game theory or talking about foraging bands like the Aché of Paraguay. You won’t get too much about the role of culture in history or economic life. For cultural evolution and recorded human history, the best (and almost the only) book-length exemplar is Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War: the Rise and Fall of Empires . This is the popularisation of theoretical modelling and empirical work he has done elsewhere. Not only does it apply the principles of cultural evolution to the dynamics of state formation and decay, but it also has the best single chapter describing the science of human sociality. Also worth a look is Turchin’s Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth with arguments drawn from anthropology, archaeology, religion, ancient history, as well as contemporary life. It’s also got a chapter with the best explanation-illustration of cultural group selection.