Eh.net Book Review: Economic History of Warfare and State Formation

19 09 2017

Published by EH.Net (September 2017)

Jari Eloranta, Eric Golson, Andrei Markevich and Nikolaus Wolf, editors, Economic History of Warfare and State Formation. Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer, 2016. xxii + 283 pp., $129 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-981-10-1064-2.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Mark Koyama, Department of Economics, George Mason University.
Reviewing an edited volume is always a challenge. The title and blurb of Economic History of Warfare and State Formation suggests a comprehensive account of the economic history of war and states in the tradition of Otto Heinz or Charles Tilly. This volume does not provide this. Rather it is a selection of essays written in honor of the work of Mark Harrison, the distinguished economic historian of the Soviet Union.

The essays included in this volume are all by leading scholars in economic history. It opens with a highly stimulating piece by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson on “Paths to Inclusive Political Institutions.” This chapter focuses on the need for state development to be balanced by the rise of a strong civil society if a society is to follow the path towards inclusive political institutions pioneered by classical Athens and early modern England. This piece is ambitious and always interesting, even when one disagrees with it. It goes beyond the arguments they have developed in previous work such as Why Nations Fail (2012) and offers a novel way to think about the formation of liberal states.

The second essay in the volume, “States and Development: Early Modern India, China, and the Great Divergence” by Bishnupriya Gupta, Debin Ma, and Tirthankar Roy, also tackles an important subject matter. It attempts to integrate the perspectives scholars have gained from focusing on the concept of state capacity into the Great Divergence Debate. This is an important and unstudied topic. And the chapter makes the important point that state capacity was undeveloped in both China and India on the eve of the Great Divergence. But at less than sixteen pages, this essay is far too short and concise to do justice to the topic or to fully engage in the relevant literatures or fully assess the historical evidence.

The second part of the volume contains three papers on the Russia (one of which also considers Finland). This is fitting for a tribute to Harrison who has worked extensively on the Soviet Union, but it represents a narrowing of focus compared to the papers contained in Part 1 and these essays are more likely to appeal to specialists in the field rather than to the general reader. That said, the data contained in both the chapters by Steven Nafziger and Andrei Markevich are fascinating and will no doubt feature in subsequent published articles.

Part three focuses on the economics of warfare. Harrison’s essay is a fantastic deconstruction of many widely retold myths about World War 1. In his revisionist reading: the war was the result of rational calculation due to the “rational pessimism” of particularly Austrian, German, and Russian policymakers; the Allies had an overwhelming economic superiority and attrition was a rational strategy for them to pursue; the blockade of Germany was less decisive than is usually supposed; the harshness of Versailles and consequences of hyperinflation oversold and German democracy was on course for consolidation in the 1920s before the Great Depression hit.

The remaining essays tackle a common theme. Drawing on their previous research, Stephen Broadberry and Peter Howlett summarize the lessons from British mobilization in World War II. Price Fishback and Taylor Jaworski study how American involvement in that war affected the spatial distribution of economic activity. They show that war spending had a persistent impact on population movements as people relocated to countries where war spending was higher. Jonas Scherner and Jochen Streb reassess the widely held view that there was a German armament miracle in 1942 when Albert Speer became armaments minster. Eric Golson introduces a simple framework to understand the incentives facing neutral countries in World War II.

I enjoyed and learned from many of the pieces in this volume. But I also suffered the disutility associated with false advertising. The blurb presents Economic History of Warfare and State Formation as a comprehensive handbook on state formation for both academics and lay readers. It is not this. And I found it bizarre that nowhere is the book advertised as what is it which is: a Festschrift volume.

Once this is recognized then it is understandable that the book suffers from many of the inevitable issues that bedevil all such Festschrifts. Some of these come with the territory and cannot be avoided. Here, however, I felt that some of the disunity could have been easily remedied by including proper introductory and concluding chapters. There is a short preface, but a volume like this requires a strong introduction that knits together the themes of the separate essays. Since many of the different papers do not engage or speak to one another, in the absence of a proper introduction or conclusion, one questions the value of having them published in a single volume rather than as separate articles or working papers. This shouldn’t be read as a criticism of the scholarship of the authors of this volume, but it is a criticism of edited volumes produced by commercial publishers.

In sum, Economic History of Warfare and State Formation contains some fascinating essays and scholarship. As a volume, however, it is less than the sum of its often very stimulating parts.
Among Mark Koyama’s recent papers are “Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China” (with Melanie Meng Xue) and “Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death” (with Remi Jebwab and Noel D. Johnson).

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CfP: Time in Organizations

18 09 2017

This conference looks potentially very interesting as a chance to bring business historians and management scholars interested in temporarility together.

Organizational History Network

Call for Papers
Time in Organizations

23rd Colloquium in the History of Management and Organizations
Paris, Cité Internationale Universitaire

May 22th-23rd 2018

Organizations, such as firms, professions, institutions, etc. are exposed to management
constraints (e.g. accounting terms) and political horizons (e.g. election of professional
association’s chairman, terms of office) that are engaged in a short-time frame.
Yet, the definition of organizations’ strategy is placed on a future strongly dependent on
abilities to imagine forthcoming events. In this sense, organizations’ dynamism is often
linked with the ability to plan for the future.
A third temporality crosses through organizations and refers to a very short period of
time, associated with everyday life. As when one plans for the future, this temporality is
uncertain and unpredictable and often implies to make decisions in emergency
situations.
A fourth temporality consists of looking at the past. Probably “less conscious” than other
temporalities, it still gives…

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Speaker List: International Council on Archives’ (ICA) Section on Business Archives (SBA), Mumbai

16 09 2017

 

In December, Mumbai will host the second part of the annual conference for the International Council on Archives’ (ICA) Section on Business Archives (SBA), 2017.  I’m sharing the list of presenters here.

Venue: Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited. Pirojshanagar, Vikhroli, Mumbai.

4th December 2017

Workshop on Conducting Corporate Oral History by Dr. Rob Perks
Limited Seats. RSVP required
Reception
5th December 2017

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM conference
7:00 PM Dinner
6th December

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Here is the list of speakers:

Alexander Bieri
(Roche, Switzerland)

Alexander Husebye
(Centre for Business History, Stockholm)

Anders Sjoman
(Centre for Business History, Stockholm)

Andrea Hohmeyer
(Evonik Industries AG, Germany)

Andrew D. Smith
(University of Liverpool Management School)

Aspey Melanie
(The Rothschild Archive, UK)

Bruce Smith
(Historian, Australia)

Cai Yingfang
(The Section of Business Archives, The State Archives Administration of China)

Chinmay Tumbe
(Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, India)

Diego M. Coraiola
(University of Alberta)

Henning Morgan
(Maersk, Denmark)

Indira Chowdhury
(Centre for Public History, India)

Rob Perks
(British Library, UK)

Jason Dressel
(The History Factory)

Niles Lichtenstein
(Enwoven, USA)

Tobias Ehrenbold
(Historian, Switzerland)

Tony Nilsson
(Inter IKEA Group, Sweden)

Tracey Panek
(Levi, USA)

Wim van Lent
(Montpellier Business School)

Yuko Matsuzaki
(Shibusawa Eiichi Foundation, Japan)





Trade or Raid: Acadian Settlers and Native Indians Before 1755

14 09 2017

For some time, I have been reading, with interest, the publications of Dr Vincent Geloso, a Canadian economic historian trained at LSE who is now a postdoc at Texas Tech. His new paper, “Trade or Raid: Acadian Settlers and Native Indians Before, 1755” is intriguing,

Abstract: The peopling of North America by European settlers often conflicted with the property rights of aboriginals. Trade could, and often did, represent a peaceful and mutually beneficial interaction between these two groups. However, more often than not, raid was preferred over trade. This was not always the case (as exemplified in this paper) for the French settlers of Atlantic Canada, known as Acadians, who enjoyed exceptionally peaceful relations with First Nations. In this paper, I argue that this colony was peripheral in the designs of European governments and was largely stateless and was left to fend for itself. As such, all the costs of raiding were borne by settlers who favored trade over raid for more than a century.

 

The core theme of Vincent’s intriguing new paper, which is on the role of trade in promoting inter-ethnic peace, is similar to that my new working paper: “Business and the Rise of a Form of Multiculturalism That Works: a Possible Master Narrative for Canadian Business History

Abstract: Researchers from across the social sciences, and in several management disciplines, are now increasingly interested in the role of business in promoting the peaceful coexistence of ethnocultural groups. Today, Canada is an outstanding example of harmonious ethnic diversity. Business played an important role in the emergence of this successful society. The newly renascent field of Canadian business history is in need of theoretically informed master narratives if it is to continue to grow. This paper proposes that the study of the role of business in the emergence of multicultural Canada be one of the organizing themes for the field of Canadian business history.

 

Vincent Geloso

I have another working paper available which I will soon start presenting in order to obtain comments.  In the paper, I consider whether or not North America could have been settled more peacefully with fewer infringements of the property rights of First Nations. I argue that the case of Acadia – the French settlements in Atlantic Canada – offer an interesting counterfactual. The colonists were in a borderland which was largely left ungoverned by European powers and were thus more or less in a situation of statelessness. Being forced to shoulder all the costs of violence themselves, the settlers developed exceptionally peaceful relations with the First Nations of the region. In the paper, I survey this exceptional counterfactual and I provide new information about the region’s living standards. The paper is available on SSRN and the abstract is below:

The peopling of North America by European settlers often conflicted with…

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150 Years of Canadian Business History Conference

8 09 2017

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On Tuesday, I will be presenting a paper at the 150 Years of Canadian Business History Conference at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.  I have upload both the program/brochure for the whole event plus a draft of my own paper, “Business and Multiculturalism: a Possible Master Narrative for Canadian Business History

Abstract: Researchers from across the social sciences, and in several management disciplines, are now increasingly interested in the role of business in promoting the peaceful coexistence of ethnocultural groups. Today, Canada is an outstanding example of harmonious ethnic diversity. Business played an important role in the emergence of this successful society. The newly renascent field of Canadian business history is in need of theoretically informed master narratives if it is to continue to grow. This paper proposes that the study of the role of business in the emergence of multicultural Canada be one of the organizing themes for the field of Canadian business history.

I would like to thank the organizers for their very hard work in arranging this conference. A major thanks to the donors who made it possible to cover the costs of presenters.





Job: AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award

8 09 2017

Want to learn more about how companies use history to compete? Are you interested in doing PhD research with me? Then check out this opportunity to do a funded PhD here at the University of Liverpool!

Organizational History Network

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award Studentship (January 2018 start)

Published on 4 September 2017

Black and white photo of Martins Bank, Aigburth
Martins Bank, Aigburth, Liverpool. Barclays Group Archives

‘Accounts with Interest’ – Opening up the Archives of Barclays Bank

Closing date for applications: 30 October 2017

The University of Liverpool and Barclays Group Archives (BGA) invite applications for a fully-funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship to start in January 2018.  While corporate archives are sometimes seen only as sites of historical research, this  PhD research is different and will focus on what the archive does for the company in the present.   The studentship is designed to prepare the candidate for a successful career in either academic or private sectors.

The successful candidate will enjoy privileged opportunities to work  as a member of the professional team responsible for Barclays Group Archives in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester exploring the possibilities for exploiting customer and other nominal banking data within the…

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Rhetorical History in the White House

24 08 2017

One of my major research interests is how senior managers in companies use history rhetorically (to persuade people) and to make sense of the world. There’s been a great deal of coverage of President Trump’s decision to reverse his stance and to authorize a surge in US troop levels in Afghanistan.  Trump had previously vowed to cut the US’s losses and withdraw from Afghanistan. See here, here, and here.  Trump’s many critics have seized on the fact that the as-yet unpublished PowerPoint presentation that persuaded Trump to change his mind included a historical photo, a monochrome picture from 1972 of women in Kabul wearing mini-skirts.

women-kabul

Image from Amnesty International Via Quartz

This image had been included in the presentation by the US generals who were attempting to persuade Trump that Afghanistan was not a lost cause and was not irredemiably and unalterably committed to Islamic fundamentalism.   “Hey look, the war is winnable– they used to dress like us”  was the message. This rhetorical use of history seems to have been effective.

Now the nature of the historical image that was shown to Trump (women showing their legs) has, of course, resulted in a field day for Trump’s many enemies (see here, here, and here). However, we should remember that historical information and historical analogies have informed the Oval Office discussions of even the most cerebral US presidents as I have shown in previous posts and many IR scholars have documented in many books and articles.

Whether or not using history to make strategic decisions actually results in better decision-making isn’t yet known. As I have pointed out, it is probably the most under-researched important question in the social sciences.

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