The History of Melchers, 1806-2006 by Henning Melchers

31 03 2014

I would like to read The History of Melchers, 1806-2006 by Henning Melchers. (Bremen: Hauschild, 2006). Sadly, the nearest library copy of this book is in Frankfurt.  No copies of this book are available from the main used book websites, such as Alibris and Abebooks. The publisher, Hauschild Verlag, filed for bankruptcy in late 2013. 

This book is only work in any language on the history of Melchers, an important German multinational. I need to know more about this firm’s activities in China in the early twentieth century. 

Any assistance readers could give me would be appreciated! 



Doux Commerce Bleg

30 03 2014


Nicolai Foss has posted a bleg I requested on the Organizations and Markets blog. I’m very grateful to him for ensuring that it is read by as many people as possible.

Originally posted on Organizations and Markets:

| Nicolai Foss |

Andrew Smith, University of Liverpool Management School asks for the help of the readers of O&M:

I’m currently exploring the literature on the theory of the capitalist peace. I’m very familiar with the vast literature by IR scholars and political economists on the theory of the capitalist peace/commercial peace (i.e., the idea that commercial interdependence among nations reduces the likelihood of warfare). This literature is dominated by works using panel data (e.g., Gartzke, 2007).

What I need to find out more about is the literature on the possible microfoundations of the capitalist peace—i.e., work by psychologists and experimental economists on whether repeated participation in inter-ethnic and international trade actually influences the cognitive processes of the individuals involved and makes them less warlike. Does experience with economic exchange with non-members of the group (family, clan, tribe, nation, etc) make people more pacific? Does it make individuals…

View original 128 more words

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

28 03 2014

Zeta Psi Fraternity House (1909-1910) at Lafayette College is a historic fraternity house located at Easton, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.


AS: There are many problems in UK higher education, but thank goodness they don’t have fraternities here. I’ve taken this paragraph from a blog post by Harry Brighouse, who is summarizing a new academic book on the economics of fraternities on US college campuses. The book argues that university administrators are complicit in a system that destroys human capital, reduces social mobility in the United States, has contributed to the growth of income inequality, and encourages sexual assault.

Sadly,the fraternity system has crept over the border into some of the more culturally Americanized universities in Canada. Luckily they didn’t have it at Queen’s, at least when I was there.


Brighouse writes:

The authors lived for a year in a “party” dorm in a large midwestern flagship public university (not mine) and kept up with the women in the dorm till after they had graduated college. The thesis of the book is that the university essentially facilitates (seemingly knowingly, and in some aspects strategically) a party pathway through college, which works reasonably well for students who come from very privileged backgrounds. The facilitatory methods include: reasonably scrupulous enforcement of alcohol bans in the dorms (thus enhancing the capacity of the fraternities to monopolize control of illegal drinking and, incidentally, forcing women to drink in environments where they are more vulnerable to sexual assault); providing easy majors which affluent students can take which won’t interfere with their partying, and which will lead to jobs for them, because they have connections in the media or the leisure industries that will enable them to get jobs without good credentials; and assigning students to dorms based on choice (my students confirm that dorms have reputations as party, or nerdy, or whatever, dorms that ensure that they retain their character over time, despite 100% turnover in residents every year).


Papers on Historical Topics at the European Public Choice Conference, 2014

26 03 2014

The European Public Choice Society Conference for 2014 will take place at Robinson College, Cambridge. Thursday April 3 to Sunday April 6 2014. 


Destined for Democracy? Labour Markets and Political Change in Colonial British America
Elena Nikolova, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United Kingdom

This paper proposes a new explanation for the emergence of democratic institutions: elites may extend the right to vote to the masses in order to attract migrant workers. I argue that representative assemblies serve as a commitment device for any promises made to labourers by those in power, and test the argument on a new political and economic data set from the thirteen British American colonies. The results suggest that colonies that relied on white migrant labour, rather than slaves, had better representative institutions. These findings are not driven by alternative factors identified in the literature, such as inequality or initial conditions, and survive a battery of validity checks


War and the Transition Away for Absolutism
Francesco Giovannoni, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

We propose a model to explain the transition from Absolutism to rule by Parliament. The Elite faces a trade-off between the loss of a war today with the future benefits under an alternative King. The threat of losing a war and being replaced may lead the King to compromise with the Elite and hand over power. The model has two key parameters. One is the fraction of the country’s wealth that is non-verifiable (and therefore hard for the King to tax or expropriate). The second is how likely the country is to be attacked. Our model gives a rationale for historical transitions away from Absolutism such as in ancient Athens, medieval Venice, 16th century Netherlands and the Glorious Revolution in 1688 England. The model also gives a rational for why (respectively) Sparta, other Italian cities, Spain, and France did not observe a similar transition.


Rebellions, Technical Change, and the Early Development of Political Institutions in Latin America
Alvaro Aguirre, Central Bank of Chile, Chile

This paper documents that differences in the early development of institutions in Latin America explain the subsequent economic performance in the region. It develops a model with the aim of identifying the factors behind this institutional development. The model predicts that the risk of conflict, which in the model arise due to labor coercion, leads to poor restrictions on the powers of chief executives. Since elite members cannot commit to a strong response to conflicts they empower the executive so he may react forcefully to conflicts. Technical advance leads to higher constraints as expropriation becomes more costly. But this does not happen with a large fraction of coerced labor because higher returns raise labor demand and conflict risks. Finally, the paper conducts an econometric exercise which shows that the dynamics of the institutional gap can be explained to a large extent by the risk of rebellion, globalization, and their interaction.

Also, people in Quebec and Scotland will likely be interested in the following paper:

If You Want me to Stay, Pay: A model of asymmetric federalism in centralised countries
Peter Claeys, Free University of Brussels, Belgium

Highly centralised countries like Italy and Spain have devolved fiscal power to regions in an asymmetric way. Some well-off regions get transfers that turn them into net recipients of the fiscal system. We demonstrate in a political economy model of fiscal federalism that in centralised countries, side-payments are used to compensate regions that are set back by the fiscal system and can credibly threaten to secede. Compensation blocks political negotiation on alternative “more efficient” fiscal systems. We study two regions, Valle d’Aosta in Italy and Pais Vasco in Spain, as an example.

Business Archive Council Bursary

25 03 2014

The Award

As a result of the generosity of Sir Peter Thompson, former Chairman of the National Freight Corporation, and the Wellcome Foundation, the BAC has instituted a trust fund, the income from which is used to offer annually a bursary to help an individual to further their research into business history through the study of specific business archives. In 2014 the value of the award will be up to £1000.


Applicants must be engaged in business history research using British-based business archives, normally at least of postgraduate level, with a view to publication of an article or book. Professional scholars and amateur researchers are equally welcome, but preference may be given to scholars at the beginning of their careers who are less able to call on other institutions for funding. Applicants studying for a research degree should identify a specific project based on identifiable archive resources, rather than merely seeking a grant-in-aid of their overall research programme.

Undergraduates, those researching commissioned histories and the members of the BACs Executive Committee are not eligible. Family historians and those wishing to work on records or archives not generated by business organisations, even to contextualise business history research, will not be eligible.

It is expected that the successful applicant will submit an short article based on the research to the Council’s journal, Business Archives. This will not preclude publishing elsewhere.


There is no application form. Candidates should provide a statement indicating: the objectives of their research, which will need to be within the broad field of business history; the nature and location of the specific set of business records they wish to study; a detailed breakdown of costs; the proposed methods of dissemination of the results of their work.

In addition to the above information, please include a brief curriculum vitae.

Completed applications, which should not exceed five sides, should be sent to:

The closing date is Wednesday 30th April 2014.


The decision of the BAC is final. The successful applicant will be informed by the end of May 2014. The prize will be awarded at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Business Historians Conference, Newcastle University Business School, 27-28 June 2014

China Isn’t Socialist, It’s High Modernist

22 03 2014

AS: That’s the theme of a recent blog post by Dart-Throwing Chimp. Discussing the Chinese state’s plans to socially engineer the rate of urbanisation, he writes:

In certain circles of development studies, it’s become almost cliché to invoke James Scott’s Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have FailedI’m going to do it anyway—because the book is that good, but also because Scott’s framework suggests two important predictions about where China’s process of managed urbanization is headed.

DTC goes on to make some good points about China’s government. I agree that Scott’s book is an important one that every social scientist ought to read. However, it also needs to be said that Scott’s concept of “high modernism” has a lot of similarities to F.A. Hayek’s concept of “rational constructivism.” Hayek developed the term “rational constructivist” to identify the mindset that was behind central planning and other attempts to impose grandiose master plans on society.  In my view, Hayek’s discussion of this issue is far more sophisticated than that of Scott. I would certainly commend DTC for reading and citing Scott’s important work, but I would encourage him to re-engage with Hayek’s ideas.

China Isn’t Socialist, It’s High Modernist.

Thoughts on BHC 2014

16 03 2014

BHC 2014 has finished. I first went to BHC on 2005, when it was held in Toronto. BHC has become my favourite annual conference. I find the formal sessions and informal discussions to be incredibly stimulating. This year’s BHC was superbly well-executed and planned. The venue, food, etc., were all great.

There are several aspects of BHC 2014 that are worthy of comment. First, there is the evident growing interest in the environmental history of business. At the BHC in St. Louis in 2011, there was just one panel on business/environmental history. At this year’s BHC, there were three. The trend line is encouraging, especially for those of us who are either doing research on environmental history or who are doing research on countries which economic activity has a relatively heavy impact on the economy (e.g., nations such as Canada in which each unit of GDP has a high carbon footprint).

Canadian business historians made a strong and positive impression at this year’s BHC. Canada’s business history community is, of course, very small relative to the country’s population or GDP (for instance, the UK has a population twice the size of Canada but a vastly larger community of business historians). Strong papers on Canadian business-historical topics were presented by Matt Bellamy, Laurence Mussio, and Stephen Salmon.   Dimitry Anastakis, who wasn’t present to collect his award, was given a prize for his new book Autonomous State: The Epic Struggle for the Canadian Car Industry from OPEC to Free Trade.

Canadian business historians will likely continue to maintain and build the brand by nurturing a reputation for quality research.

There were a number of papers related to financialization and I learnt a lot about the regulatory changes of the 1980s that encouraged stock buybacks. This research clearly connects to the broader them of the conference, which was corporate morality.

Per Hansen’s keynote address on the subject of financialization was very stimulating.  However, I think that Professor Hansen may be making the common error of failing to differentiate between good and bad financialization. Clearly, many of the forms of financialization we saw in the run-up to the GFC had negative financial consequences. However, other forms of financialization can be highly beneficial. For instance, there is a general consensus that it is a good thing if all adults in a society have a bank account and other ways of accessing the formal financial sector. We can call the growth of this financial infrastructure “financialization” but we can also call it “financial inclusion,” which sounds a bit nicer.

The distinction between good and bad forms of financialization has been made by Raghuran Rajan in a number of publications back when he was an academic. Perhaps his Saving Capitalism From the Capitalists is the best place for a reader interested in Rajan’s ideas to start. Since  Rajan has become the head of India’s central bank, he has attempted to promote good financialization in rural India. I feel that business historians need to think more carefully about the broad range of activities that are covered by the broad term financialization.


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