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New Books in Economic and Business History
47 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
Zachary Karabell, "Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power" (Penguin, 2021)
In 1800 a Belfast linen merchant named Alexander Brown emigrated with his wife and eldest son to Baltimore. Today his family’s name lives on in the investment firm Brown Brothers Harriman, a company that has long played an outsized role in American history. As Zachary Karabell details in his book Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power (Penguin, 2021), a key factor in its endurance over the country’s long and often tumultuous financial history has been the importance it has accorded to the values of trust and reputation which Alexander Brown championed. These he taught to his sons, who branched out beyond Baltimore and Liverpool and spearheaded the transition from trade into finance. By the second generation the Browns were fixtures in both London and New York, from where their respective firms endured the Civil War and grew as the country expanded.By the end of the 19th century Brown Brothers was among the nation’s elite financial firms. Karabell shows how their founder’s values were shared by the others of a new emergent ruling, who were educated at a handful of top schools and who moved easily between finance and politics. Though Brown Brothers steered clear of the volatile transactions that were associated with the Gilded Age, they formed ties with some of its participants, most notably railroad tycoon and financier E. H. Harriman. It was the financial firm created by Harriman’s sons Averell and Roland that merged with Brown Brothers in 1930 to create Brown Brothers Harriman, which nurtured a generation of cabinet members, governors, and United States senators. As Karabell demonstrates, these leaders carried forward the ideals Alexander Brown advocated, which have not only shaped America’s role in the world but have ensured the firm’s survival while its counterparts around them have risen and fallen in the unrestrained pursuit of wealth.
27 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
Shane Hamilton, "Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race" (Yale UP, 2018)
This episode of the New Books in Economic and Business History is an interview with Dr. Shane Hamilton, Senior Lecturer in Management at The York Management School, University of York. There he teaches Strategy and Business Humanities. He is the author of Trucking Country: The Road to America's Wal-Mart Economy (Princeton, 2008) and he is associate editor of Enterprise & Society and co-editor of the book series American Business, Politics, and Society of the University of Pennsylvania Press. He has published articles on food and agribusiness in different journals such as the Technology & Culture, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, History of Retailing and Consumption, Enterprise & Society, Business History Review, and Agricultural History. Today our interview is centered around Professor Hamilton’s latest book Supermarket USA, Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race (published by Yale University Press in 2018). America fought the Cold War in part through supermarkets—and the food economy pioneered then has helped shape the way we eat today Supermarkets were invented in the United States, and from the 1940s on they made their way around the world, often explicitly to carry American‘ style economic culture with them. This innovative history tells us how supermarkets were used as anticommunist weapons during the Cold War, and how that has shaped our current food system. The widespread appeal of supermarkets as weapons of free enterprise contributed to a “farms race” between the United States and the Soviet Union, as the superpowers vied to show that their contrasting approaches to food production and distribution were best suited to an abundant future. In the aftermath of the Cold War, U.S. food power was transformed into a global system of market power, laying the groundwork for the emergence of our contemporary world, in which transnational supermarkets operate as powerful institutions in a global food economy.I recommend you visit Dr. Shane Hamilton’s website to learn about all his publications.Paula De La Cruz-Fernandez is a consultant, historian, and digital editor. New Books Network en español editor. Edita CEO.
69 minutes | Jun 15, 2021
Emma Rothschild, "An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France over Three Centuries" (Princeton UP, 2021)
Emma Rothschild’s new book, An Infinite History: The Story of a Family in France over Three Centuries (Princeton University Press, 2021) (see the book’s accompanying website here: https://infinitehistory.org), is a beautiful work that, by following the lives of one obscure family over five generations, weaves together a history of France through the momentous revolutions and economic transformations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this conversation, Emma talks to Yi Ning Chang about the puzzles of writing micro-, meso-, and macrohistory, about the literary and the historical, and about what it might mean for the historian to treat every historical story as one of potentially infinite possibilities.Marie Aymard was an illiterate widow who lived in the provincial town of Angoulême in southwestern France, a place where seemingly nothing ever happened. Yet, in 1764, she made her fleeting mark on the historical record through two documents: a power of attorney in connection with the property of her late husband, a carpenter on the island of Grenada, and a prenuptial contract for her daughter, signed by eighty-three people in Angoulême. Who was Marie Aymard? Who were all these people? And why were they together on a dark afternoon in December 1764? Beginning with these questions, An Infinite History offers a panoramic look at an extended family over five generations. Through ninety-eight connected stories about inquisitive, sociable individuals, ending with Marie Aymard’s great-great granddaughter in 1906, Emma Rothschild unfurls an innovative modern history of social and family networks, emigration, immobility, the French Revolution, and the transformation of nineteenth-century economic life.Rothschild spins a vast narrative resembling a period novel, one that looks at a large, obscure family, of whom almost no private letters survive, whose members traveled to Syria, Mexico, and Tahiti, and whose destinies were profoundly unequal, from a seamstress living in poverty in Paris to her third cousin, the cardinal of Algiers. Rothschild not only draws on discoveries in local archives but also uses new technologies, including the visualization of social networks, large-scale searches, and groundbreaking methods of genealogical research.An Infinite History demonstrates how the ordinary lives of one family over three centuries can constitute a remarkable record of deep social and economic changes.Yi Ning Chang is a PhD student in political theory at the Department of Government at Harvard University. She works on the history of contemporary political thought, postcolonial theory and race, and the global histories of anticolonialism and anti-imperialism in Southeast Asia. Yi Ning can be reached at email@example.com.
73 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
Fei-Hsien Wang, "Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China" (Princeton UP, 2019)
Pirates and Publishers: A Social History of Copyright in Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2019) is a detailed historical look at how copyright was negotiated and protected by authors, publishers, and the state in late imperial and modern China. In Pirates and Publishers, Fei-Hsien Wang reveals the unknown social and cultural history of copyright in China from the 1890s through the 1950s, a time of profound sociopolitical changes. Wang draws on a vast range of previously underutilized archival sources to show how copyright was received, appropriated, and practiced in China, within and beyond the legal institutions of the state. Contrary to common belief, copyright was not a problematic doctrine simply imposed on China by foreign powers with little regard for Chinese cultural and social traditions. Shifting the focus from the state legislation of copyright to the daily, on-the-ground negotiations among Chinese authors, publishers, and state agents, Wang presents a more dynamic, nuanced picture of the encounter between Chinese and foreign ideas and customs. Developing multiple ways for articulating their understanding of copyright, Chinese authors, booksellers, and publishers played a crucial role in its growth and eventual institutionalization in China. These individuals enforced what they viewed as copyright to justify their profit, protect their books, and crack down on piracy in a changing knowledge economy. As China transitioned from a late imperial system to a modern state, booksellers and publishers created and maintained their own economic rules and regulations when faced with the absence of an effective legal framework. Exploring how copyright was transplanted, adopted, and practiced, Pirates and Publishers demonstrates the pivotal roles of those who produce and circulate knowledge.Fei-Hsien Wang is associate professor at the Department of History, Indiana University Bloomington. She is a historian of modern China, with a particular interest in how information, ideas, and practices were produced, transmitted, and consumed across different societies in East Asia. Her research has revolved around the relations between knowledge, commerce, and political authority after 1800. She is Associate Editor of the American Historical Review.Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, tentatively titled Banking on the Chinese Frontier: Foreign Banks, Global Finance and the Making of Modern China, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.
60 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
Suzanne L. Marchand, "Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe" (Princeton UP, 2020)
Suzanne L. Marchand's new book Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2020) balances several histories at once through the story of a single commodity. Rather than a history of art or aesthetics per se—though it certainly touches style and artists— Porcelain is at once a business history of mercantile productions, a history of chemistry at the dawn of modern industry, and a history of aristocratic consumption of porcelain as these stories open into an economic history of globalized markets, as well as a social history of sorts of Central Europe’s fledgling bourgeois and lower-class consumer public. Marchand traces these interlocking stories across three centuries, from the first European firing of porcelain in 1708 under the supervision of Johann Friedrich Böttger to the present day, where contemporary tastes threaten to consign the white tableware of Europe’s past to the flea markets of today. Porcelain in Marchand’s hands acts as something like an objet de memoire, to think of Pierre Nora and other scholars’ work on national histories. One of the book’s many virtues is the sense of Professor Marchand reassembling a continental pattern out of several shards.Porcelain, as Professor Marchand writes, “is a rich and complicated adventure, in which we not only visit lavishly decorated palaces but also linger in blisteringly hot craft workshops and spartan working-class homes. Though actual porcelain objects in all their splendor and strangeness play a central role, the focus is really on the people who made, marketed, and purchased them, whether they were princes, or peddlers, or middle-class housewives.” It is also an attempt to write Central European history in a new way, one that the author hopes will be taken up by other scholars of history and material culture.John Raimo is a PhD. Candidate in History at NYU finishing up my dissertation (on postwar publishing houses) this summer in European history.
49 minutes | Jun 4, 2021
James M. Banner Jr., "The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History" (Yale UP, 2021)
In recent years the phrase “revisionist history” has emerged as a label for politically-correct reexaminations of an unalterable understanding of our past. As James M. Banner, Jr. demonstrates in his book The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History Is Revisionist History (Yale UP, 2021), such a definition ignores how historical knowledge in the West has always been fluid and subject to reinterpretation by scholars. As Banner illustrates, such revisionism occurs in a variety of ways and can reflect everything from the discovery of new information to the reconsideration of the past from different perspectives the present. These approaches are evident even in the earliest works of history, and reflect the changes that have taken place in civilization over time. By addressing recent public controversies at which revisionism was at the heart, Banner shows that It is through this process that we better understand who we are today and the course we will take as a society going forward.
64 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
Nate Holdren, "Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era" (Cambridge UP, 2020)
Nate Holdren is the author of Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era, published by Cambridge University Press in 2020. Injury Impoverished looks at the history of U.S. workplace injuries in the late-19th and early-20th Centuries. As the workers, employers, and reformers attempted to tackle the drastically high rates of workplace injuries and deaths, the nation passed a number of compensation laws that fundamentally changed how the law approached workplace injuries. Holdren, in examining this history illustrates the many shortcomings of these laws, and how laws meant to help employees were often used to do the exact opposite. At the heart of Holdren’s study is whether or not the economy and the legal system was interested in and able to do justice for a workers.Dr. Holdren is an Assistant Professor at Drake University.Derek Litvak is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland—College Park. His dissertation, "The Specter of Black Citizens: Race, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Early United States," examines how citizenship was used to both bolster the institution of slavery and exclude Black Americans from the body politic.
56 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
Kristy Ironside, "A Full-Value Ruble: The Promise of Prosperity in the Postwar Soviet Union" (Harvard UP, 2021)
In spite of Karl Marx's proclamation that money would become obsolete under Communism, the ruble remained a key feature of Soviet life. In fact, although Western economists typically concluded that money ultimately played a limited role in the Soviet Union, Kristy Ironside argues that money was both more important and more powerful than most histories have recognized. After the Second World War, money was resurrected as an essential tool of Soviet governance. Certainly, its importance was not lost on Soviet leaders, despite official Communist Party dogma. Money, Ironside demonstrates, mediated the relationship between the Soviet state and its citizens and was at the center of both the government's and the people's visions for the maturing Communist project. A strong ruble--one that held real value in workers' hands and served as an effective labor incentive--was seen as essential to the economic growth that would rebuild society and realize Communism's promised future of abundance.In A Full-Value Ruble: The Promise of Prosperity in the Postwar Soviet Union (Harvard UP, 2021), Ironside shows how Soviet citizens turned to the state to remedy the damage that the ravages of the Second World War had inflicted upon their household economies. From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, progress toward Communism was increasingly measured by the health of its citizens' personal finances, such as greater purchasing power, higher wages, better pensions, and growing savings. However, the increasing importance of money in Soviet life did not necessarily correlate to improved living standards for Soviet citizens. The Soviet government's achievements in "raising the people's material welfare" continued to lag behind the West's advances during a period of unprecedented affluence. These factors combined to undermine popular support for Soviet power and confidence in the Communist project.Kristy Ironside is an Assistant Professor of Russian history at McGill University. She focuses on the economic, social, and political history of the Soviet Union.
25 minutes | May 27, 2021
Joanne Meyerowitz, "A War on Global Poverty: The Lost Promise of Redistribution and the Rise of Microcredit" (Princeton UP, 2021)
A War on Global Poverty: The Lost Promise of Redistribution and the Rise of Microcredit (Princeton UP, 2021) provides a fresh account of US involvement in campaigns to end global poverty in the 1970s and 1980s. From the decline of modernization programs to the rise of microcredit, Joanne Meyerowitz looks beyond familiar histories of development and explains why antipoverty programs increasingly focused on women as the deserving poor. When the United States joined the war on global poverty, economists, policymakers, and activists asked how to change a world in which millions lived in need. Moved to the left by socialists, social democrats, and religious humanists, they rejected the notion that economic growth would trickle down to the poor, and they proposed programs to redress inequities between and within nations. In an emerging “women in development” movement, they positioned women as economic actors who could help lift families and nations out of destitution. In the more conservative 1980s, the war on global poverty turned decisively toward market-based projects in the private sector. Development experts and antipoverty advocates recast women as entrepreneurs and imagined microcredit—with its tiny loans—as a grassroots solution. Meyerowitz shows that at the very moment when the overextension of credit left poorer nations bankrupt, loans to impoverished women came to replace more ambitious proposals that aimed at redistribution. Based on a wealth of sources, A War on Global Poverty looks at a critical transformation in antipoverty efforts in the late twentieth century and points to its legacies today.Stephen Pimpare is director of the Public Service & Nonprofit Leadership program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.
82 minutes | May 21, 2021
Christine Walker, "Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain's Atlantic Empire" (UNC Press, 2020)
Jamaica Ladies: Female Slaveholders and the Creation of Britain's Atlantic Empire (Omohundro Institute/University of North Carolina Press, 2020) is the first systematic study of the free and freed women of European, Euro-African, and African descent who perpetuated chattel slavery and reaped its profits in the British Empire. Their actions helped transform Jamaica into the wealthiest slaveholding colony in the Anglo-Atlantic world. Starting in the 1670s, a surprisingly large and diverse group of women helped secure English control of Jamaica and, crucially, aided its developing and expanding slave labor regime by acquiring enslaved men, women, and children to protect their own tenuous claims to status and independence. Female colonists employed slaveholding as a means of advancing themselves socially and financially on the island. By owning others, they wielded forms of legal, social, economic, and cultural authority not available to them in Britain. In addition, slaveholding allowed free women of African descent, who were not far removed from slavery themselves, to cultivate, perform, and cement their free status. Alongside their male counterparts, women bought, sold, stole, and punished the people they claimed as property and vociferously defended their rights to do so. As slavery's beneficiaries, these women worked to stabilize and propel this brutal labor regime from its inception.Christine Walker is assistant professor of history at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.Jerrad P. Pacatte is a doctoral candidate and School of Arts and Sciences Excellence Fellow in the Department of History at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His research and teaching interests examine the lives, labors, and emancipation experiences of African and African American women in early America.
44 minutes | May 20, 2021
Amanda Ciafone, "Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation" (U California Press, 2019)
Today I talked to Amanda Ciafone's (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) about her book Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation (University of California Press, 2019). Counter-Cola charts the history of one of the world’s most influential and widely known corporations, The Coca-Cola Company. Over the past 130 years, the corporation has sought to make its products, brands, and business central to daily life in over 200 countries. Amanda Ciafone uses this example of global capitalism to reveal the pursuit of corporate power within the key economic transformations—liberal, developmentalist, neoliberal—of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Coca-Cola's success has not gone uncontested. People throughout the world have redeployed the corporation, its commodities, and brand images to challenge the injustices of daily life under capitalism. As Ciafone shows, assertions of national economic interests, critiques of cultural homogenization, fights for workers’ rights, movements for environmental justice, and debates over public health have obliged the corporation to justify itself in terms of the common good, demonstrating capitalism’s imperative to either assimilate critiques or reveal its limits. This book is a great source to study the history of globalization and global capitalism through the analysis of the particular history of the US-headquartered and textbook case multinational, the Coca-Cola Company, through the twentieth century. Counter-Cola looks at how the strategies of the multinational company, mostly devised at its headquarters in Atlanta, Giorgia, developed in Colombia and India as nationalism, financial dependency, workers’ unrest, social movements, and health considerations unfolded and were opposed to the overarching and assumed benefits of the multinational in both locations. Amanda Ciafone is a cultural historian of capitalism, especially interested in culture industries and the role of the media in constructing meaning around economic and social relations.Check out Professor Ciafone’s additional and research materials related to her book Counter-Cola: A Multinational History of the Global Corporation that are available in a digitally accessible Scalar companion that is available on her faculty profile website.Paula De La Cruz-Fernandez is an economic and business historian. Author of Gendered Capitalism: Sewing Machines and Multinational Business in Spain and Mexico, 1850-1940 (Routledge 2021)
45 minutes | May 20, 2021
Joshua D. Rothman, "The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America" (Basic Book, 2021)
Joshua Rothman’s The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America was published by Basic Books in 2021, and tells a sprawling history of slave traders in America. Often presented as outcasts and social pariahs, slave traders were often instead wealthy and respected members of their communities. Rothman explores the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard to show just what the work of a domestic slave trader looked like and the devastating affects their actions had on enslaved people. By weaving together a history the lives of men who created one of the most powerful slave trading operations in America, Rothman is able to show how slavery’s expansion and growth occurred up to the Civil War.Joshua Rothman is a professor of history at the University of Alabama.
50 minutes | May 19, 2021
Justene Hill Edwards, "Unfree Markets: The Slaves' Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina" (Columbia UP, 2021)
Justene Hill Edwards is the author of Unfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina (Columbia University Press, 2021). Unfree Markets focuses in on an area of slavery’s history that has seldom been explore: the economic lives of enslaved people, and its meaning for them, enslavers, non-enslavers, and the institution of slavery itself. Hill Edwards explores how the complicated history of the slaves’ economy from the colonial period to the Civil War, showing the relationship between it and the development of capitalism in the nation. Through a history of enterprise, cultivation, markets, and people, Hill Edwards shows just how much the tenuous the connection between economic activity and freedom for the enslaved became throughout this time period, and what that meant for everyone involved.Justene Hill Edwards is an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia.Derek Litvak is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland—College Park.
53 minutes | May 17, 2021
Mary Pilon, "The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game" (Bloomsbury, 2015)
The inside story of the world's most famous board game-a buried piece of American history with an epic scandal that continues today.The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game (Bloomsbury, 2015) reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man's lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game's questionable origins.Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily--and richly--ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord's Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game--underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today--was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt's famed Brain Trust.A gripping social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly's real-life winners and losers.Mary Pilon is a journalist, screenwriter, and author of the bestselling books "The Monopolists" and "The Kevin Show" as well as co-host and co-author of “Twisted: The Story of Larry Nassar and the Women Who Brought Him Down.” Her work regularly appears in the New Yorker, Esquire, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Vice, New York, and The New York Times, among other publications.Dr. Lee Pierce (they & she) is Assistant Professor of Rhetorical Communication at State University of New York at Geneseo and host of the podcast RhetoricLee Speaking. Connect with Lee on Gmail and social media @rhetoriclee.
60 minutes | May 13, 2021
John Wong, "Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century: The House of Houqua and the Canton System" (Cambridge UP, 2016)
In Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century: The House of Houqua and the Canton System (Cambridge University Press, 2016), John D. Wong examines the Canton trade networks that helped to shape the modern world through the lens of the prominent Chinese merchant Houqua, whose trading network and financial connections stretched from China to India, America and Britain. In contrast to interpretations that see Chinese merchants in this era as victims of rising Western mercantilism and oppressive Chinese traditions, Houqua maintained a complex balance between his commercial interests and those of his Western counterparts, all in an era of transnationalism before the imposition of the Western world order. The success of Houqua and Co. in configuring its networks in the fluid context of the early nineteenth century remains instructive today, as the contemporary balance of political power renders the imposition of a West-centric world system increasingly problematic, and requires international traders to adapt to a new world order in which China, once again, occupies center stage.John D. Wong is associate professor at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on the flow of people, goods, capital and ideas. With a particular interest in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta area, he explores how such flow connected the region to the Chinese political center in the north as well as their maritime partners in the South China Sea and beyond. He is the co-convenor of a new collaborative research project titled "Delta on the Move: The Becoming of the Greater Bay Region, 1700 – 2000."Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, tentatively titled Banking on the Chinese Frontier: Foreign Banks, Global Finance and the Making of Modern China, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.
58 minutes | May 12, 2021
Brian Castner, "Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike" (Doubleday, 2021)
In 1897, the United States was mired in the worst economic depression that the country had yet endured. So when all the newspapers announced gold was to be found in wildly enriching quantities at the Klondike River region of the Yukon, a mob of economically desperate Americans swarmed north. Within weeks tens of thousands of them were embarking from western ports to throw themselves at some of the harshest terrain on the planet--in winter yet--woefully unprepared, with no experience at all in mining or mountaineering. It was a mass delusion that quickly proved deadly: avalanches, shipwrecks, starvation, murder.In Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike (Doubleday, 2021), author Brian Castner tells a relentlessly driving story of the gold rush through the individual experiences of the iconic characters who endured it. A young Jack London, who would make his fortune but not in gold. Colonel Samuel Steele, who tried to save the stampeders from themselves. The notorious gangster Soapy Smith, goodtime girls and desperate miners, Skookum Jim, and the hotel entrepreneur Belinda Mulrooney. The unvarnished tale of this mass migration is always striking, revealing the amazing truth of what people will do for a chance to be rich.Brian Castner is a nonfiction writer, former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer, and veteran of the Iraq War. He is also the bestselling author of Disappointment River, All the Ways We Kill and Die, and the war memoir The Long Walk, which was adapted into an opera and named a New York Times Editor’s Pick and Amazon Best Book of the Year. His journalism and essays have appeared in the New York Times, WIRED, Esquire, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and on National Public Radio. He is the co-editor of The Road Ahead, a collection of short stories featuring veteran writers, and has twice received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, to cover the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014, and to paddle the 1200 mile Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 2016.
55 minutes | May 12, 2021
Hannah Barker, "That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500" (U Pennsylvania Press, 2019)
Before the Transatlantic slave trade ravaged the western coast of Africa, immense numbers of persons were taken from their homes and carried across the Black and Mediterranean Seas as involuntary passengers. This trade is the subject of Hannah Barker’s remarkable study, That Most Precious Merchandise: The Mediterranean Trade in Black Sea Slaves, 1260-1500 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019).Professor Barker provides a comprehensive overview of this tangled, multiethnic trade in human beings. Professor Barker is uniquely equipped to do so because she brings a knowledge of both Arabic and Latin. Since this trade brought captives both to Mamluk Egypt and late medieval Italy, previous studies, hampered by linguistic limitations, have not examined the trade in its totality. Barker is able to marshal both Arabic and Latin sources to provide a truly comprehensive picture of slaving and slavery. The result is a work that is both detailed and synoptic, and is essential reading for scholars of late medieval Europe and North Africa.Jonathan Megerian is a doctoral candidate in history at Johns Hopkins University. He works on late medieval and Renaissance England. His dissertation explores the role of historiography in the formation of imperial ideologies in Renaissance England.
45 minutes | May 11, 2021
John Kenneth Galbraith, "The Great Crash 1929" (Penguin Classics, 2021)
"A good knowledge of what happened in 1929 remains our best safeguard against the recurrence of the more unhappy events of those days", wrote John Kenneth Galbraith in The Great Crash 1929 – first published in 1954 and re-published in May 2021 as a Penguin Modern Classic.Written over one summer in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College, the book became an instant best-seller and sales have spiked at every financial crisis since.In The Great Crash 1929, Galbraith, who died in 2006, wrote a pacey and witty classic of clearly written economics for the general reader packed with lessons for today. Some of these are picked out by his son, James Kenneth Galbraith, in his introduction written in the wake of the financial crash in 2008-09.Like his father, James Galbraith is an economist and public intellectual. He holds the Lloyd Bentsen Chair in Government/Business Relations at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and is professor in government at The University of Texas at Austin.*The author's own book recommendations are How China Escaped Shock Therapy: The Market Reform Debate by Isabella M. Weber (Routledge, 2021) and The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes by Zachary Carter (Random House, 2020)Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Global Advisors.
53 minutes | May 5, 2021
Lila Corwin Berman, "The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex: The History of a Multibillion-Dollar Institution" (Princeton UP, 2020)
For years, American Jewish philanthropy has been celebrated as the proudest product of Jewish endeavors in the United States, its virtues extending from the local to the global, the Jewish to the non-Jewish, and modest donations to vast endowments. Yet, as Lila Corwin Berman illuminates in The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex: The History of a Multibillion-Dollar Institution (Princeton University Press, 2020), the history of American Jewish philanthropy reveals the far more complicated reality of changing and uneasy relationships among philanthropy, democracy, and capitalism.With a fresh eye and lucid prose, and relying on previously untapped sources, Berman shows that from its nineteenth-century roots to its apex in the late twentieth century, the American Jewish philanthropic complex tied Jewish institutions to the American state. The government’s regulatory efforts―most importantly, tax policies―situated philanthropy at the core of its experiments to maintain the public good without trammeling on the private freedoms of individuals. Jewish philanthropic institutions and leaders gained financial strength, political influence, and state protections within this framework. However, over time, the vast inequalities in resource distribution that marked American state policy became inseparable from philanthropic practice. By the turn of the millennium, Jewish philanthropic institutions reflected the state’s growing investment in capitalism against democratic interests. But well before that, Jewish philanthropy had already entered into a tight relationship with the governing forces of American life, reinforcing and even transforming the nation’s laws and policies.The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex uncovers how capitalism and private interests came to command authority over the public good, in Jewish life and beyond.Lila Corwin Berman is Professor of History at Temple University.Host: Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.
35 minutes | May 3, 2021
Andrew Konove, "Black Market Capital: Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City" (U California Press, 2018)
In Black Market Capital Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City (University of California Press, 2018), Andrew Konove traces the history of illicit commerce in Mexico City from the seventeenth century to the twentieth, showing how it became central to the economic and political life of the city. The story centers on the untold history of the Baratillo, the city’s infamous thieves’ market. Originating in the colonial-era Plaza Mayor, the Baratillo moved to the neighborhood of Tepito in the early twentieth century, where it grew into one of the world’s largest emporiums for black-market goods. Konove uncovers the far-reaching ties between vendors in the Baratillo and political and mercantile elites in Mexico City, revealing the surprising clout of vendors who trafficked in the shadow economy and the diverse individuals who benefited from their trade. Andrew Konove, he is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas, San Antonio. He is Ph.D. in History by Yale University and his research focuses on the political, economic, and social history of urban Mexico and Spanish America in the late colonial and early national periods. Konove's Black Market Capital Urban Politics and the Shadow Economy in Mexico City received the Social Science Book Prize from the Mexico Section of the Latin American Studies Association and was a finalist for the Business History Conference’s Hagley Prize.Paula De La Cruz-Fernandez is an economic and business historian. She is also the CEO of Edita.
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