New Book Alert: The Caribbean and the Atlantic World Economy Circuits of trade, money and knowledge, 1650-1914

30 04 2015

The Caribbean and the Atlantic World Economy Circuits of Trade, Money and Knowledge, 1650-1914

This forthcoming book contains essay that should interest some business historians. Some of the contributors include some very accomplished economic historians.

This collection of essays explores the inter-imperial connections between British, Spanish, Dutch, and French Caribbean colonies, and the ‘Old World’ countries which founded them. Grounded in primary archival research, the thirteen contributors focus on the ways that participants in the Atlantic World economy transcended imperial boundaries. The volume presents linked chapters which together examine the evolving and strengthening interconnections between the changing political economies of Europe and the Caribbean during the ‘long’ eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It brings together research by well-established authors and early-career historians. Their work, and thus this volume, above all is about the historical formation of the modern political economy to which Europe and its Caribbean territories made a significant contribution. The chapters are about the exchanges and interconnections which characterised the Atlantic World; the book as a whole is about the Atlantic World’s influence on the Caribbean, and the Caribbean’s influence on the Atlantic World.

Table Of Contents
1. Experiments In Modernity: The Making Of The Atlantic World Economy; A.B. Leonard And David Pretel
2. From Seas To Ocean: Interpreting The Shift From The North Sea-Baltic World To The Atlantic, 1650-1800; David Ormrod
3. On The Rocks: A New Approach To Atlantic World Trade, 1520-1890; Chuck Meide
4. Commerce And Conflict: Jamaica And The War Of The Spanish Succession; Nula Zahedieh
5. Baltimore And The French Atlantic: Empires, Commerce, And Identity In A Revolutionary Age, 1783-1798; Manuel Covo
6. Modernity And The Demise Of The Dutch Atlantic, 1650-1914; Gert Oostindie
7. From Local To Transatlantic: Insuring Trade In The Caribbean; A.B. Leonard
8. Slavery, The British Atlantic Economy, And The Industrial Revolution; Knick Harley
9. Commodity Frontiers, Spatial Economy, And Technological Innovation In The Caribbean Sugar Industry, 1783-1878; Dale W. Tomich
10. From Periphery To Centre: Transatlantic Capital Flows, 1830-1890; Martín Rodrigo Y Alharilla
11. Baring Brothers And The Cuban Plantation Economy, 1814-1870; Inés Roldán De Montaud
12. Circuits Of Knowledge: Foreign Technology And Transnational Expertise In Nineteenth-Century Cuba; David Pretel And Nadia Fernández-De-Pinedo
13. Afterword: Mercantilism And The Caribbean Atlantic World Economy; Martin Daunton

About the editors:

David Pretel is Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Economic History at University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, where he lectures in the history of economic thought. Previously he was Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow in History at European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He specialises in economic history, historical political economy, and the history of technology.

Adrian Leonard is Post-doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Financial History, University of Cambridge, UK. He has written widely on topics related to marine insurance and the Atlantic World. He is co-editor of the series The Atlantic World 1400-1850 (2014), and of Questioning Credible Commitment (2013).

Barry Eichengreen’s Challenge to Business Historians

30 04 2015

Although he doesn’t use this term, Barry Eichengreen’s important new book Hall of Mirrors The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History certainly adopts this approach. As I have said earlier, this book is important for anyone who teaches about finance, political economy, financial history, economic history, and so forth. There is tonnes of really good historical material in this book. For instance, I learned about Henry Ford’s pet bank and its place in the politics of bank bailouts in the early 1930s. But perhaps the most important part of the book isn’t the empirical data presented in it, but the author’s methodology, which is constitutive historicism, albeit without the label.

To hammer home this point, I’m going to reproduce the first paragraph of the conclusion of the book:

The historical past is a rich repository of analogies that shape perceptions and guide public policy decisions. Those analogies are especially influential in crises, where there is no time for reflection. They are particularly potent when so-called experts are unable to agree on a framework for careful analytic reasoning. They carry the most weight when there is a close correspondence between current events and an earlier historical episode. And they resonate most powerfully when an episode is a defining moment for a country and a society. For President Harry S. Truman, in deciding whether to intervene in Korea, the historical moment was Munich. For policymakers confronted in 2008-9 with the most serious financial crisis in eighty years, the moment was the Great Depression.

There is a lot going on in this paragraph, so let’s unpack it. Note how Eichengreen is here employing Daniel Kahneman’s distinction between thinking fast and thinking slow. Eichengreen isn’t saying that historical-analogic reasoning always has a massive influence on policymakers, merely that its influence is more pronounced during crises. Students of the making of US foreign policy were among the first group of social scientists to apply constitutive historicism as a research methodology (think of the classic book Analogies At War) and Eichengreen alludes to all of the earlier research in this area before applying the same basic approach to economic policymakers.

Eichengreen’s book shows how the lessons that economists and historians distilled from the Great Depression influenced policymakers before, during and after the 2008-9 financial crisis. Establishing that perceptions of history influenced policymakers during the crisis is, for a scholar of Eichengreen’s abilities, kind of like shooting fish in the barrel, since some of the key policymakers, most notably Ben Bernanke but also British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, had studied the Great Depression in their earlier academic careers. Moreover, these policymakers often used historical analogies to the Great Depression in their public pronouncements, as Eichengreen documents. All of these references to history are on the record and online for Eichengreen or any other researcher to use. As more and more documents created by policymakers during the financial crisis become available to researchers (e.g., as they are released to the public after the statutory term of years) we will be able to see from their private correspondence, FOMC transcripts, and emails how the key players used historical analogies when they were addressing each other, rather than a larger audience.

The challenge to business historians and other management academics who are interested in applying the constitutive historicism approach is to determine how and when decision-makers in the private sector use historical-analogic reasoning. Barry Eichengreen’s primary focus is on policymakers (e.g., policymakers and civil servants). The primary focus of academics in management schools is on decision-makers within companies. By using a different range of primary sources, we should be able to adapt Eichengreen’s constitutive historicism approach and then apply it to corporate actors. Looking at how Wall Street executives used historical-analogic reasoning during the crisis in the autumn of 2008 would seem to be a logical place to start. Another possible avenue of investigation would be to look at whether venture capitalists and others involved in the highly uncertain and unpredictable world of launching new companies use historical-analogic reasoning.

From “Economic Man” to Behavioral Economics

29 04 2015

That’s the title of a great new essay by Justin Fox that reviews just how much economists’ views of human motivation have changed over the course of the last few decades. Fox explains in clear, layman-accessible terms, the ongoing academic debates about how people make decisions.  There is plenty of good historical material in this essay: lots of material about the historical context of management-school ideas seems to be the hallmark of Fox’s books and articles.

…Although heuristics and biases is currently dominant, for the past half century it has interacted with and sometimes battled with the other two, one of which has a formal name—decision analysis—and the other of which can perhaps best be characterized as demonstrating that we humans aren’t as dumb as we look.Adherents of the three schools have engaged in fierce debates, and although things have settled down lately, major differences persist. This isn’t like David Lodge’s aphorism about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so small. Decision making is important, and decision scholars have had real influence.

Heath Replies to Tabarrok

25 04 2015

Joseph Heath

Two of the most interesting economic thinkers of our times have recently been in an online dialogue. Joseph Heath, the University of Toronto philosopher, recently published Enlightenment 2.0  Restoring Sanity to Our Politics, Our Economy, and Our LivesThis book builds on his earlier popular and academic work, including Filthy Lucre: Economics For People Who Hate Capitalism. As many readers will know, that book set out to debunk six common right-wing fallacies about the economy as well as six common left-wing fallacies.

In Enlightenment 2.0, Heath draws on the work of Daniel Kahneman.

Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the western world. have become increasingly divided-not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy. What’s more, the crazies seem to be gaining the upper hand. Rational thought cannot prevail in the current social and media environment, where elections are won by appealing to voters’ hearts rather than their minds. The rapid-fire pace of modern politics, the hypnotic repetition of daily news items and even the multitude of visual sources of information all make it difficult for the voice of reason to be heard.

In Enlightenment 2.0, bestselling author Joseph Heath outlines a program for a second Enlightenment. The answer, he argues, lies in a new “slow politics.” It takes as its point of departure recent psychological and philosophical research, which identifies quite clearly the social and environmental preconditions for the exercise of rational thought. It is impossible to restore sanity merely by being sane and trying to speak in a reasonable tone of voice. The only way to restore sanity is by engaging in collective action against the social conditions that have crowded it out.

Anyway, Tabarrok published a lengthy and thoughtful review of Enlightenment 2.0 that was entitled Is Capitalism Making Us Stupid? Heath replied with an extensive blog post on In Due Course. I got the impression that Heath has lots of interesting material that wasn’t presented in this book due to space consideration.

For instance, Heath writes in his blog post:

Last but not least, Tabarrok is unsatisfied by my discussion of Ayn Rand’s rationalism. “Heath recognizes the Ayn Rand problem but he brushes it aside. That’s a shame because a longer discussion might have been enlightening.” I’ve heard lots of complaints about this – that I don’t explain how we went from the left being so anti-rationalist in the ’60s, and Rand being the arch-rationalist, to essentially a reversal of the positions. There was initially a longer discussion in the book of conservatism, and why Rand is something of an exception in the broader tradition, which has always gravitated towards anti-rationalism. This got left on the cutting room floor, so I’ve brushed it off and cleaned it up. Let’s call it my one-minute history of conservative anti-rationalism. It’s still pretty sketchy, but at least it’s more than can be found in the book.

It sounds as if Heath has material that could be expanded into a follow-up book!

Les Hannah on the History of Barclays

24 04 2015

Just in time for its tumultuous AGM (for outbursts by shareholders, see here), Barclays bank has produced a video on the history of this venerable financial institution. The video features the distinguished business historian Les Hannah talking about the bank’s history and values. The video alludes to the bank’s Quaker founders and long history of involvement in overseas business.

The video is interesting on a number of levels, not least as an example of constitutive historicism and a fine case of a firm using its heritage in investor relations.

CFP: Management History Research Group Annual Workshop

23 04 2015

The Management History Research Group Annual Workshop, Tuesday 21 July and Wednesday 22 July 2015 at the University of York, UK.

This year the Management History Research Group meeting will remember two important figures in the foundation of the MHRG, Derek Pugh and Andrew Thomson. Derek Pugh was a path-breaking contributor to management thought, particularly through his 1971 edited volume Organization Theory which helped to establish organizational behavior as a field of enquiry. Pugh’s team, known as the ‘Aston School’, was important in furthering this field. In his later career, at The Open University Business School, Pugh went on to help found the MHRG with Andrew Thomson. As well as the MHRG, Thomson was a founder of the British Academy of Management and served as Dean of the Open University Business School. In the management history field he co-authored The Making of Modern Management: British Management in a Historical Perspective with John F. Wilson, and with Edward Brech and John F. Wilson published a biography of Lyndall Urwick, the British pioneer of scientific management.

The Management History Research Group Meeting 2015 will be hosted by The York Management School at the University of York.

The theme of the workshop will be “The scholarship of Derek Pugh and Andrew Thomson”, and we encourage papers that engage with the themes covered by Pugh and Thomson during their working lives, such as organizational behavior and the history of the management profession. As usual, papers can also be on any topic in the field of MOH, broadly conceived. Heterodox approaches are especially well received. Panel proposals are also welcome.

We welcome three types of submission:

Full Papers c. 2,000 words, excluding references. These papers are expected to be works progress and will be peer reviewed. They will be circulated to the participants in the workshop.

Developmental Papers/Presentations c. 500 words, excluding references. These papers/presentations are expected to be at a more formative stage of production should be presented with a view to gaining feedback for further development.

PhD/Post-doc Presentations. There will also be a session for PhD students and Postdocs who wish to gain feedback for their work from experienced scholars. Papers for this session should be c. 500 words excluding references.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 4 May at 5pm. Late submissions will not be considered. Please email submissions and any queries to:

Notification of acceptance will be given by 5pm on Monday 11 May.

Workshop details:

The cost of the workshop is £100 for full-time academic members of staff. The cost for PhD

students and post-doctoral students will be £60.

Lunches and a conference dinner will be provided.

Accommodation will not be provided, but a list of possible places to stay in York will be made available.

Workshop conveners:

Dr Simon Mollan, Dr Kevin Tennnent, Dr Phil Garnett, and Professor Bill Cooke (all The York Management School, University of York)

The Business History Network at Oxford University – 2015 Workshop

23 04 2015

The Business History Network at Oxford brings together early-career researchers from all disciplines with an interest in business history. They want to be a forum for discussion and build long-term collaborative relationships among the participants of our workshops.

Their second Workshop of 2015 will take place on 18th June 2015 at St. John’s College, Oxford. Any graduate students and postdocs who are interested in attending the workshop or signing up to their newsletter can find more information on their website.


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