CETA and the “Battle of Battle of Wolfsburg”

19 09 2016


The fate of the proposed trade deal between Canada and the EU will depend on the outcome of a political fight in Germany that Politico.eu has dubbed the Battle of Wolfsburg. The German city of Wolfsburg is primarily associated with one of that country’s most famous exports, the Volkswagen. Right now, though, all eyes are focused on the city because it is hosting a conference at which 250 delegates from the Social Democratic party will vote on whether to approve the trade deal between the EU and Canada. The SPD is split on the issue of CETA: the left-wing of the party is generally opposed and sees the agreement as essentially the same as the proposed trade deal between the EU and the US, an agreement that is widely opposed by centre-left people in Europe. (For BBC coverage of the massive protests against CETA, see here). The more moderate faction of the SPD favours the trade agreement with Canada and is seeking the approval of the convention for it.  If the German parliament fails to ratify the deal, the agreement is unlikely to take effect.

Canada’s very capable minister of International Trade,  Chrystia Freeland understands the importance of the Volksburg conference and will attend. It appears that the Canadian government’s strategy for convincing European social democrats of the value of the agreement is to stress that Canada is different from the US and shares the values of the EU nations. She has just released a joint statement with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in which CETA is described as a “progressive agreement” filled with social-protection clauses. It will be very interesting to see whether this argument is persuasive.

Two Important New Papers by Dan Wadhwani

15 09 2016

Edward Elgar has just published a new collection of essays entitled A Research Agenda for Entrepreneurship and Context. The book’s editors are Friederike Welter, the Director of Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn and Bill Gartner, Professor of Entrepreneurship and the Art of Innovation, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and Professor of Entrepreneurship, California Lutheran University.

I’ve had a chance to leaf through the book, which contains some really interesting papers.  (Full table of contents below). The papers that caught my eye and which I have read are by  Dan Wadhwani and deal with what historical research methods and historical knowledge can offer to entrepreneurship research. “Entrepreneurship in historical context: using history to develop theory and understand process” and “Historical methods for contextualizing entrepreneurship research.”  It is encouraging to me to historical methods being incorporated into the literature on entrepreneurship research methods.


Table of Contents

1. The context of contextualizing contexts
Friederike Welter, William B. Gartner and Mike Wright

2. Understanding entrepreneurial cognitions through the lenses of context
Malin Brännback and Alan L. Carsrud

3. ‘After’ context
Chris Steyaert

4. Let them eat bricolage? Toward a contextualized notion of inequality of entrepreneurial opportunity
Ted Baker and E. Erin Powell

5. The temporal dimension of context
Stephen Lippmann and Howard E. Aldrich

6. Entrepreneurship in historical context: using history to develop theory and understand process
R. Daniel Wadhwani

7. A relational conceptualization of context and the real-time emergence of entrepreneurship processes
Denise Fletcher and Paul Selden

8. Theorizing entrepreneurship in context
Erik Stam

9. Methodological approaches towards context-sensitive entrepreneurship research
Simone Chlosta

10. Advancing understanding of entrepreneurial embeddedness: forms of capital, social contexts and time
Sarah Drakopoulou Dodd, Tobias Pret and Eleanor Shaw

11. Historical methods for contextualizing entrepreneurship research
R. Daniel Wadhwani

12. Narrating context
William B. Gartner

13. Advancing our research agenda for entrepreneurship and contexts
Friederike Welter and William B. Gartner

What Does Economic History Have to Say About Global Gender Inequality? Can Business Historians Make a Contribution as Well?

12 09 2016

Economic historians have recently been doing some fascinating research on comparative degrees of gender inequality and how they may have contributed to the famous Great Divergence. It occurs to me that qualitative business historians might be able to contribute to our understanding of this topic through case studies regarding historic female entrepreneurs in different cultural contexts.

The gender equality index from the Center for Global Economic History shows that while there has been a general improvement in the relative position of women in most countries during the past century, we have seen little in the way of convergence between countries. In other words, the world’s most patriarchal nations are not catching up with the most liberal ones, even though both sets of nations have moved in the direction of greater gender equality.

According to a new working paper from the Center for Global Economic History, this lack of convergence reflects the fact that gender inequality is both deeply rooted in the civilizations of different regions of the world.

Here is the paper abstract:

This paper develops an interrelated set of hypotheses about the links between gender relations, family systems and economic development in EurAsia. Firstly, we briefly discuss a number of ideas from the recent literature about the links between gender relations and economic development. Secondly, we suggest a measure of historic gender relations via the classification and measurement of historical family systems, and offer a set of maps of the institutions concerning marriage, inheritance and family formation that determine the degree of agency that women enjoyed at the micro level. Thirdly, we discuss the possible explanation of the genesis of the EurAsian pattern in family systems and gender relations as a by-product of the spread of agriculture and the process of ancient state formation that followed the Neolithic Revolution 10,000 years ago. Finally, we link these patterns in family systems and female agency to economic growth after 1500. We empirically demonstrate that high female agency was related to per capita GDP between 1800 and 2000. The ‘reversal of fortune’ that happened within EurAsia between 1000 and 2000, whereby the ancient centers of state formation and urbanization in the Middle East, India and China were overtaken by regions at the margin of the continent (Western Europe, Japan, Korea), can in our view be linked to this spatial pattern in gender relations and family systems found there (and reconstructed here).

Hannah on Fitzgerald, The Rise of the Global Company.

8 09 2016

Robert Fitzgerald, The Rise of the Global Company: Multinationals and the Making of the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xii + 622 pp., $30 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-521-61496-2.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Leslie Hannah, London School of Economics.

This is a long-awaited magnum opus from a scholar whose encyclopedic knowledge of multinationals is well displayed in this volume.

It has two great strengths. The first is its coverage of the changing political contexts within which multinationals operated. Other studies are, of course, aware of the devastating effects of wars on (particularly German) multinationals, but no existing work ranges so confidently over the complexities nor adequately conveys the blindness with which participants at the time navigated their ways through the uncertainties created by expropriations and occupations. Those of us who have forgotten which politicians Lockheed bribed, the brand complications created by post-war splits, why the Japanese took over Germany’s Pacific colonies, or how the Kuwait Investment Office was viewed by western intelligence agencies, will find useful pointers to the relevant literature in the text and endnotes. His examples also raise some doubts in my mind as to whether the existing literature’s stress that governments are now more interventionist than in an earlier (supposedly laissez-faire) era is correct.

The second strength is the book’s eclecticism. Fitzgerald is, of course, familiar with the “Anglo-Saxon” country that dominated multinational investing in the nineteenth century (where he begins) and the larger one which dominates it in the twenty-first (where he ends). Yet he appears equally at home with the 1920s competition between the Banque de l’Indochine and Paribas, the extension of Canadian influence in the Caribbean, and Japanese multinationals’ weak modern risk management in Iran. For that reason this book could become a valued and much-thumbed addition to any business historian’s research bookshelf. An added attraction for that purpose (too often neglected in this age of internet searches of online publications) is its superb fifty–page index.

Unfortunately that is not how the publishers and/or author and/or editors have positioned the book. This is a volume in the Economic History Society’s series New Approaches to Economic and Social History, supposedly offering a “concise” survey for “advanced school students and undergraduate historians and economists.” Such words applied to this book risk prosecution under the UK Trade Descriptions Act. There is some attempt to summarize each chapter and sub-sections, but the treatment is far too detailed and unorganized for this purpose. Most undergraduates would find the multiplication of examples impenetrable and directionless and any professor would be doing students a grave disservice in recommending this as a textbook. It would be useful as supplementary reading to generate leads for an essay project (where it is richer in citation of contemporary sources and contains useful warnings against “present-mindedness” in Whiggish perspectives on the past), but Geoffrey Jones’Multinationals and Global Capitalism, published by Oxford, would more suitably serve as the main course text.

Leslie Hannah lives in Tokyo and is Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. He recently published (with Makoto Kasuya), “Twentieth Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective,” Enterprise & Society (2015).

Article 50 Insurance

2 08 2016

A few days ago, I posted some thoughts about whether Brexit insurance should be provided by the state or the private sector. I argued that the state should provide it so as to incentivize policymakers to adopt an approach to the Brexit negotiations that would minimize the economic costs. Today, the FT reports that ActiveQuote, the  Cardiff-based company that runs the income protection insurance segments of such UK price comparison websites as Go Compare has reported that Brexit produced a huge surge in the numbers of people looking to purchase insurance against unemployment.They also reported that many of the people seeking cover work in finance and earn £150,000.

It sounds like people in the City have concluded that the government won’t be compensating those who lose their jobs due to the government’s intention to trigger Article 50.

Invitation to Tender: City Lives

2 08 2016



Are you an oral historian who wishes to do research on the UK financial sector? If so, this tender may interest you.

National Life Stories, the oral history fieldwork charity based within the British Library, is seeking to employ a freelance consultant for 20 days (daily rate will be £200.00) in order to complete a Scoping Study for the project City Lives Revisited—to inform its rationale, structure, timeframe and identify potential funders. The successful applicant will require a detailed knowledge of the UK’s financial sector and its history, and preferably will have an understanding of oral history as a discipline and methodological approach.

This is a freelance consultancy service for National Life Stories beginning in October 2016. All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 26 September 2016.

Between 1987 and 1997 National Life Stories (NLS) explored the inner world of Britain’s financial capital and gathered 150 in-depth biographical recordings with men and women from the Stock Exchange, the merchant and clearing banks, the commodities and futures markets, law and accounting firms, financial regulators, insurance companies and Lloyd’s of London. The City Lives project is a unique record of the complex interrelationships and dramatic changes which defined the Square Mile in the late twentieth century.
The first City Lives interviews (BL catalogue no. C409) were made in time to capture a substantial body of memories of the days when London’s financial sector was concentrated in the Square Mile and British family banking dynasties conducted business in a manner handed down from the previous century. By the time the project ended, the effects of Big Bang, including the influx of powerful overseas securities firms, and the geographical pull of Canary Wharf had changed the landscape completely. Many of the well-known names had vanished – Barings Bank being only one of them – and the shift to screen-based electronic trading had swept away traditional working methods and relationships. City Lives documents personal accounts and pivotal moments, among them the British Aluminium battle, the arrival of women traders at the Stock Exchange, the privatisation of British Telecom, the Big Bang in 1986, the 1987 Crash, the creation of LIFFE and the rise in power of the American banks in London. Inadvertently, the project caught the zeitgeist of the City before 9/11, an atmosphere that seems unlikely to return.

City Lives: The Changing Voices of British Finance by Cathy Courtney and Paul Thompson (Methuen, 1996) was edited from the interviews, and 76 interviews are now available online worldwide in their entirety as part of a new ‘Banking and Finance’ package at http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Banking-and-finance for use by scholars and researchers and anyone interested in the City. The BL’s oral history collections also include other interviews related to banking and finance notably The Jobbing System of the London Stock Exchange: An Oral History (C463), An Oral History of Barings (C1367), the Kynaston London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange (LIFFE) Interviews (C1053) and the Kynaston Phillips & Drew Interviews (C1054).

Much has happened in the City and in the UK’s financial sector since 1997 and NLS is now planning to initiate a new oral history programme – City Lives Revisited – to document the key recent changes that have occurred. We now want to commission a Scoping Study to assess existing oral history collections relating to the UK’s finance sector, both at the British Library and more widely, and make recommendations about the scope and scale for a new programme of interviews.

Oral history is a uniquely useful tool for collecting personal testimony, insight and reflection. Beginning with older, senior figures – but ranging right across the sector from top to bottom – we are envisaging that City Lives Revisited will document the key period between 1995 and 2008, spanning 9-11, when the City was convulsed by the Asian (1997) and Russian (1998) debt crises; by the rise of new media and technologies, and the internet bubble; and by the Y2K panic. Leading up to the crash of 2008 the City also witnessed the rise of the large global banks, hedge funds and private equity funds. Post-2008 and leading up to Brexit the project will seek to document the casualties of the crash, the impact on the City and chart how regulatory frameworks have shifted.

As with the existing interviews in City Lives, the new project will record one-to-one audio interviews averaging ten to fifteen hours in length made over several sessions, the content of which will range broadly over each individual’s career history, education, background and family. This biographical, or life story, approach has proved rewarding for previous projects and enormously valuable for researchers seeking a more rounded view of an individual and their contribution to their profession. The interviews will be archived and – subject to interviewee consent – made available at the British Library onsite and online, for consultation by researchers, historians and biographers.

The brief

National Life Stories is seeking to employ a freelance consultant for 20 days in order to complete a Scoping Study for the project, to inform its rationale, structure, timeframe and identify potential funders. The successful applicant will require a detailed knowledge of the UK’s financial sector and its history, and preferably will have an understanding of oral history as a discipline and methodological approach. Reporting to the NLS Director, the successful candidate will provide the following services:

To act as consultant researcher for City Lives Revisited: to prepare and deliver a Scoping Study preparatory to a major oral history project on the recent history of the financial sector in the United Kingdom with particular reference to the City of London.

This Scoping Study will encompass:

o A desk-based summary mapping survey of the key existing oral history and life story collections relating to the UK financial sector which can be found in publicly-accessible archives and libraries in the UK, by way of a gap analysis, highlighting priority topics, individuals, themes and areas for fruitful oral history research.

o An assessment of the key developments in the sector since the initial City Lives project. This is intended to provide a working historical rationale and framework for the project.

o A position paper evaluating the potential scope of a life story project within the sector. This should recommend options for the likely themes of enquiry, possible interviewees and potential funding avenues.

Findings will be reported to the NLS project team comprising:
Dr Robert Perks, NLS Director/Oral History Lead Curator, BL
Sir Nicholas Goodison, NLS Advisor
Cathy Courtney, NLS Project Director
Cai Parry-Jones, Oral History Curator, BL

The proposed schedule of work will be:
o October 2016: start date
o Mid-November 2016: draft summary of preliminary key findings
o End November 2016: project team meeting at BL
o Early December 2016: submission of final Scoping Study to project team

Copyright in the research findings and Scoping Study will be held by National Life Stories at the British Library

Terms and Conditions

This is a freelance consultancy service for National Life Stories for 20 days’ work (7.5 hours per day) beginning in October 2016. The daily rate will be £200.00.

This contract is for work on a self-employed basis, where the successful candidate will take responsibility for their own tax and National Insurance contributions, and will invoice National Life Stories upon delivery of the report.


To apply you should send a CV and a covering statement (no more than four A4 pages in total) explaining how your experience and skills meet the requirements specified in the project brief to:

Dr Rob Perks, City Lives Revisited Scoping Study, National Life Stories, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Please indicate where you found this position advertised.

All applications must be received by 5.00pm on Monday 26 September 2016.

Interviews will take place at the British Library on Wednesday 5 October 2016.

Should Brexit Income-Loss Insurance be Provided by the Government or the Private Sector?

29 07 2016

A few days ago, a curious advert appeared in my Facebook feed: it was for Brexit-related income protection insurance. In effect, an insurance company was offered me the chance to insure against the possibility that Brexit might cost me my job. The product has been rushed to market in the month since the referendum result by a firm hoping to capitalize on the widespread sense of uncertainty that now pervades many sectors of the British economy. Many people genuinely fear that Brexit could cost them their jobs.

I’m not convinced that this product offers value for money, as I suspect the clever lawyers for the insurance company could concoct plausible arguments to allow the firm to get out of paying out to people who have lost job. One would need to read the insurance contract, and the relevant UK case law, to see what sort of evidence the policyholder would need to produce to prove a casual linkage between Brexit and loss of income. (The company could always argue that the policyholder’s employer went out of business for reasons unrelated to Brexit).


The being said, the fact this policy is being offered at all says something about the political economy of Brexit negotiations. This insurance product is being offered because many people assume that they will not be able to claim back lost income from the government in the event of Brexit-induced job losses.  Effectively, the politicians responsible for Brexit have externalized many of the costs associated with Brexit. Ironically, some of the members of the current cabinet are strong believers in the “polluters should pay principle”. I agree that this is a good principle, because it forces firms to internalize the costs of dumping waste in the river. Maybe the same principle should be applied to Brexit job losses.  If the current government is indeed confident that Brexit would be a clear net benefit to the UK economy and job gains would outweigh any job losses, they should put their money where their mouth is and place a bet on this belief by offering cover the costs that any individual or company suffers as a result of Brexit.

Let’s apply a public-choice lens here: the politicians who are tasked with negotiating some sort of compromise with the EU are wealthy individuals who are going to remain wealthy regardless of whether they take a hardline stance that worsens the impact of Brexit on UK wage earners. Indeed, the politics of the Conservative party may actually incentivize these politicians to adopt positions that end up costing lots of little people their jobs. The UK Treasury would, of course, lose a great deal of money in the event of a job-destroying outcome to the Brexit negotiations (e.g., less tax revenue, more benefits claimed), but many of the costs associated with Brexit would be borne by private individuals, not central government. The externalization of these costs thus enables the policymakers to indulge in the luxury of grandstanding in negotiations with Brussels.

Since 1962, US trade liberalization agreement have been accompanied by the provision of structural adjustment funds to compensate the losers from such agreements. For instance, steel workers how can show that they lost jobs due to a trade deal that reduced tariffs on steel can claim back money from the government under the TAA scheme. Since trade liberalization is, on the whole, good for the economy, this arrangement is win-win.  The wisdom of such structural adjustment programmes can be debated, but there is a clear precedent we can follow here. Given that Brexit is a massive trade deliberalization move, it makes sense for the UK government to be forced to cover all of the costs of Brexiting. Ideally, the compensation paid to the minister responsible for Brexit policy should be connected to the size of the Brexit compensation payouts so that they are personally incentivized to negotiate an arrangement that results in as few job losses as possible. However, I suspect that it is too much to hope for.