2014-15 Hagley Business History Seminars

30 09 2014

2014-2015 Schedule

Oct. 2 – 6:30 p.m. : Roger Horowitz (Hagley Museum and Library), “‘Man-O-Manischewitz, What a Wine!’ : A story of success, failure, and the dilemmas of kosher food in a Christian society.”

Nov. 6 – 6:30 p.m. : Jesse LeCavalier (New Jersey Institute of Technology), “Walmart and the Architecture of Logistics.”

Dec. 11 – 6:30 p.m. : Stephen Mihm (University of Georgia), “Loose Screws and Standard Sizes: The Many Measures of Modernity.”

Feb. 19 – 6:30 p.m. : Tiago Saraiva (Drexel University), “Cloning California: Oranges and American Democracy in the Global Mediterranean.”

March 26 – 6:30 p.m. : Mark Rose (Florida Atlantic University), “Supermarket Banks: The Consolidation of Financial Services, 1970-1992.”

April 23 – 6:30 p.m. : Chantal Rodriquez (University of Maryland), “’Unfit for Work’: Railroad Companies and the (Un)Making of Mexican Guest Worker Health during World War II.”

For more details, see here.

RMC Conference: Turning Point Year: The British Empire at War in 1917

30 09 2014

Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario

Royal Military College (RMC)

Turning Point Year: The British Empire at War in 1917

$185 regular • $125 student

Registration fee includes banquet, lunches and coffee breaks.

For further information: http://www.rmcc.forces.gc.ca/aca/his/1917conf-eng.php


Thursday 6 November:

0815-0820 – Welcome
0830-0930 –William Philpott, “Never Over by Christmas: Meeting the Challenges of Interminable War”

0930-1030 – Keith Neilson, Royal Military College of Canada, “The Blockade in 1917”

1030-1045 – break

1045-1215 – PANEL, “The Evolving Relationship of Britain and the Dominions in 1917”
Chris Madsen and Michael Moir, “The Imperial Munitions Board and Merchant Shipbuilding in Canada”
Michael Carroll, “Resolution IX and the Diplomatic Revolution of 1917”
Rachel Lea Heide, “Genesis of Canada’s Air Force: The rise of Nationalism amongst Canadian Airmen, 1917”

1215-1315 – LUNCH

1315-1415 – Matthew Hughes, Command, Strategy and the Battle for Palestine, 1917

1415-1545 – PANEL, “The Imperial War Effort in Africa and the Middle East”
Tim Stapleton, “The Africanization of British Imperial Forces in the East Africa Campaign, 1917”
Harry Knight, “War a World Away: The Arab Bureau, the Arab Revolt and the Creation of an Arab Façade”
Justin Fantauzzo, “The Finest Feats of the War: Baghdad, Jerusalem and Popular Opinion in the British Empire”

1545-1600 – break

1600-1700 – Geoffrey Grey, “The Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1917”

1900-2200 – Banquet at Fort Frontenac Officers’ Mess

Friday 7 November:

0830-0930 – John Crawford, “’New Zealand Is Being Bled to Death': New Zealand Manpower Policy in the Toughest Year of the War”

0930-1030 – Serge Durflinger, “Vimy’s Consequence? The Montreal Riots of 1917”

1030-1045- break

1045-1215 – PANEL, “The Mobilization of Societies in 1917”
Steven Marti, “’OUR Unit’: Mobilizing Minorities in Canada, 1916-1917”
John Moses, “The Six Nations War Effort in 1917: Year of Contention”
Andrea Ellner, “Enrol Today! Women’s Auxiliary Services in Britain, the US and Germany from 1917”

1215-1315 – Lunch

1315-1415 – Ian F. W. Beckett, “General Headquarters and the British Expeditionary Force in 1917”

1415-1545 – Panel: “Supporting the War on the Western Front”
Andrew Iarocci, “’Nothing that Can Be Used Shall Go to Waste….’ Salvage, Thrift and Economy in the British Empire Armies, 1917”
Andrew McEwen, “’Just Worked to Death’: Animal Wastage in the Battle of Arras”
William Stewart, ‘Higher Standards of Canadian Infantry Replacements’: The Transformation of Canadian Infantry Recruit Training in 1917”

1545-1600 – break

1600-1700 – Mark Connelly, “British Propaganda and Newspaper Coverage of the Imperial Effort in 1917”

The Cambridge History of Capitalism

30 09 2014
For many around the world, we are richer today than we ever thought possible. Can the level of economic growth that we have seen since the mid-19th Century be sustained in the 21st century? And with that, capitalism itself?

We certainly think that the level of economic well-being enjoyed by the world’s population will continue to rise, provided political forces allow capitalism to continue making innovations in the way goods are produced and delivered to markets. But it is unlikely to maintain its current rate of growth. Miraculous growth in the Third World will certainly diminish, as these late-comers catch up with the leaders by exploiting their technologies, institutions, and governance. Population growth is also declining everywhere, and the aging associated with it will drag down growth. In addition, rising inequality in the leaders and even followers – like China and India – may reinforce anti-capitalist, anti-market, and populist feelings.

- That’s from an interview in which Jeff Williamson and Larry Neal discuss the new Cambridge History of Capitalism.

Call for Papers: Association of Business Historians

30 09 2014

Call for Papers
Association of Business Historians
23rd Annual Conference, 3-4 July 2015,
University of Exeter Business School
Business and the Periphery
The Association of Business Historians 23rd Annual Conference will be held on 3-4  July 2015 at the University of Exeter Business School on the beautiful Streatham  campus.

The conference theme will be ‘Business and the Periphery’. The conference will  explore the boundaries of business history and the conference committee will interpret  this theme broadly to welcome paper and session proposals which address historical  themes relating, but not limited, to business operating on economic, financial,  geographical, social, political, religious, technological, legal, regulatory and other  peripheries.

The conference will feature a roundtable on ‘Business History after the Research  Excellence Framework (REF)’. The Tony Slaven Doctoral Workshop will precede  the conference on 2-3 July 2015 and will be subject to a separate call, as will the
Coleman Prize for the best PhD thesis on business history completed on a British subject or at a British university.

The conference committee welcomes proposals for individual papers or complete research tracks of 90 minutes in length. Each individual paper proposal should include a short abstract, a list of 3 to 5 key words, and a brief CV of the presenter.
Proposals for research tracks should include a cover letter containing a session title and the rationale for the research track. The organisers also welcome research papers on any topic related to business history which are outside of the conference theme. If you have any questions, please contact the local organiser Mark Billings at: abh2015@exeter.ac.uk.

The deadline for submissions is 27 February 2015. Notification of acceptance will be made by 20 April 2015. Please send proposals by email to: abh2015@exeter.ac.ukor by post to:

Mark Billings
University of Exeter Business School
Streatham Court
Rennes Drive
United Kingdom

Peter Klein, Carmen Segarra, and Hard Evidence of Regulatory Capture

29 09 2014

New York Fed

Back in August, I published a blog post in which I discussed a new paper by Peter Klein on the microeconomics of central banking. (This paper appeared as a chapter in a new book edited by David Howden and Joseph Salerno, The Fed at One Hundred: A Critical View on the Federal Reserve System (New York: Springer, 2014). The title is “Information, Incentives, and Organization: The Microeconomics of Central Banking.” You can read a version of the paper here). In the paper, Klein rightly says that we need to take a hard look at the incentives of the individuals who run monetary policy, as many conflicts of interest may exist here.

I said that I really liked Peter Klein’s paper.  I pointed out that while a great deal has been said about way bankers’ compensation is structured, there is very little popular or scholarly discussion of how central bankers (e.g., Bank of England Governor Mark Carney) are compensated and how that compensation structure might influence their decisions about monetary policy! However, while I praised Klein’s paper, my instincts as a document-focused historian caused me to urge caution at the same time. Historians are like investigative journalists, we want to see a paper trail before making definitive conclusions. I wrote that

Klein makes a very strong a priori case for the thesis that the Fed’s actions are influenced by the private interests of the individuals who control it. However, I think that he has run up against a brick wall related to the availability of primary sources. The Fed and other central banks are reluctant to release information about the employment contracts, compensation packages, and so forth of their current and past employees. All they publish are the headline salaries. If we want to examine how the incentive structure for central bankers has evolved over the last 100 years, we would need access to the appropriate archival materials, which would involve looking at both the personal papers of the central bankers, the papers of their family firms, as well as the archives of the central banks. For a start, we would need to compare the terms of the employment contracts given to successive central bankers.  Speaking as a business historian, I think it may be difficult to get access to all of these materials.

I found that Klein’s paper provided lots of soft evidence of conflicts of interest but not so much hard evidence of the sort we historians (along with investigate journalists) crave. In the last few days, however, an astonishing new source of data about the incentives and socialization of key officials at the Fed has become available.  That’s because Carmen Segarra, a former employee of the New York Federal Reserve, has released 41 hours of secret recordings of her conversations with her colleagues that appear to demonstrate that Regulatory Capture was indeed at work. See here and here.  The associated episode of This American Life is well worth listening to, especially if you are the type of person who is skeptical of the ability of regulation by the state to protect the public interest.

What’s My Kardashian Index?

28 09 2014

Kim Kardashian West, Parramatta Westfield Sydney Australia – 15218956411CC BY-SA 2.0 Photo by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer

From a recent post by Peter Klein, I’ve learned of the existence of something called the Kardashian Index.

Biologist Neil Hall made a bit of a splash a few months back by introducing the Kardashian Index, basically the ratio of an academic researcher’s Twitter followers to citations in peer-reviewed journals. (For a rough approximation, just divide Twitter followers by Google Scholar cites.) Someone with a very high K-index, the story goes, has a large popular following, but hasn’t made any important scientific contributions — in other words, like Kim, famous for being famous.

I’m afraid that my Kardashian Index may be a bit higher than it should be. I’m fairly prominent in the academic blogosphere, but my Google Scholar citation count suggests that my research hasn’t made a massive impact yet.

From Hierarchy to Market: the Changing Industrial Organization of Epistemic Communities During Hong Kong’s Transition to a Cashless Society (1965-2005)

26 09 2014

AS: I’ve written a paper on Hong Kong’s transition to cashlessness with Bernardo Batiz-Lazo of Bangor Business School. Bernardo will be presenting the paper next month at the University of Gothenburg. The paper is based on extensive archival and other primary source research. On a theoretical level, it draws on the work of Richard Langlois and Lars Håkanson. Here are the details of our talk.

Guest seminar with Professor Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, University of Bangor, UK

Organized jointly with Center of Finance and Department of Economy and Society, Unit of Economic History

Date: October 14 at 2 pm,

Place: D32 (in Main Building)

From Hierarchy to Market: the Changing Industrial Organization of Epistemic Communities During Hong Kong’s Transition to a Cashless Society (1965-2005)

Bernardo Batiz-Lazo (Bangor Business School) and Andrew Smith (Liverpool School of Management)


This paper documents how computer technology modified retail financial markets in Hong Kong in the period from the 1960s to the early 2000s. The forty years after the deployment of the first computer in 1965, saw a dramatic change in retail banking technology as Hong Kong moved towards being a cashless society. Prior to that pivotal year, none of the colony’s banks used computers whilst retail customers accessed their liquid balances via cash and cheques and only during banking hours. Over time, the ways in which people spent money became more diverse and transformed with the advent of technologies such as the ATM, point of purchase debit card terminals, the Octopus chip, and mobile phone payments. One could construct a straightforward narrative arc that links the acquisition of HSBC’s first computer in 1967 to the proliferation of electronic payment systems in the twenty-first century. Such a narrative, however, would obscure an important discontinuity in the history of retail payment technology. In the early stages of Hong Kong’s transition to the cashless society, the relevant technologies were installed and managed within the boundaries of large financial intuitions such as HSBC.  The second episode discussed in this paper is the successful launch of a micro-payments solution called “Octopus”. Initially designed as a transport payments card, cash balances stored within a smart chip grew outside financial institutions to become the leading payment solution in small value transactions. Over the course of the period covered by this article, the industrial organization of the relevant technologies transformed as the provision of much of the technology for retail payments had been outsourced to non-bank, non-financial institutions. In other words, the industrial organization of the relevant technologies had been transformed. This paper seeks to account for this shift in the organization of payments technology by drawing on literature around the boundaries of the firm as well as the theory of the firm as an epistemic community. It will be suggested that this process of vertical disintegration (i.e., a shift from hierarchy to markets) took place because of changes in the underlying conditions in Hong Kong’s economy.

Information about Porfessor Batiz-Lazo

Professor Batiz-Lazo is Professor of Business History and Bank Management at Bangor University and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He read economics (at ITAM, Mexico and Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain), history (Oxford) and received a doctorate in business administration (Manchester Business School). He has been studying financial markets and institutions since 1988. He joined Bangor after appointments at Leicester, Open University and Queen´s Belfast.

Since 1998 he edits a weekly report on new working papers in business, economic and financial history (NEP-HIS). See http://lists.repec.org/mailman/listinfo/nep-his.

For the NEP-HIS blog, which reviews the highlights of these papers, see http://www.nephis.org/.

For more information contact Susanna Fellman


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