Historical Images of Canadian Business Enterprise

8 02 2011

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Below, you will find some great images related to Canadian business and economic history from the McCord Museum. Over the next few days, I will post additional images from the McCord’s wonderful collection.

Photograph | Power canal and pulp mill, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, about 1915 | MP-1975.33.2.6

Photograph | Employees of the Grand Trunk Railway, Montreal, QC, 1859-60 | N-1975.32.4

Photograph | Anson McKim's office, Montreal, QC, 1903 | II-145305

Photograph | Electric snowplough, Montreal, QC, about 1895 | VIEW-2815

Photograph, glass lantern slide | Paper ready for export, about 1927 | MP-0000.25.902

Photograph | Automobile exhibition, Montreal, QC, about 1914 | MP-0000.587.56

Photograph | Electric trams, Ste. Catherine St., Montreal, QC, 1895 | II-111371

Photograph | Interior, Montreal Stock Exchange, Montreal, QC, 1903 | VIEW-1904

Print | Temporary locomotive, workmen's houses and workshops | M15934.46

Painting | Lachine Canal, Lachine, QC | M984.273

Classic Books in Business History

15 07 2010

A former grad student in our department who is now teaching English at a Korean University emailed me recently. He said that he had recently become interested in knowing more about business history and would like a list of interesting books.  He is a bright guy but admits that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know that much right now about business history. His MA thesis was really in the field of political history.  He wants to learn more and he has access to Amazon and a credit card.

I need to recommend a few books that will allow him to sample some business history. He wants books that are solid scholarly secondary and which are moderately enjoyable to read, so literary style matters. The books can be on pretty much any country, American, European, or Asian. I suspect that he would particular like transnational or comparative topics.

Oil Field in Russia, Pre-1914

I’ve decided to share this list here in case it interests other people. If you have other books I should have suggested, feel free to recommend them in the comments section.

The Great Divergence : China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy by Kenneth Pomeranz.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 2000.

The Visible Hand : the Managerial Revolution in American Business by Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press, 1977.

Multinationals and Global Capitalism : from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century by Geoffrey Jones.  Oxford University Press, 2005.

The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise: American Business Abroad from the Colonial Era to 1914 by Mira Wilkins, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1970.

The World’s Banker : the History of the House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson. London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998.

Sloan Rules : Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors by David Farber. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Do readers of the blog have other suggestions? Which books are missing from my list?

P.S. Since my correspondent is now living in Korea, I thought that he might be interested in East Asian business history. A website was devoted to East Asian Business history was recently launched. It website contains videos of academics talking about their research. Right now there are just three videos online, but more will be coming soon. Of the three videos, the one that is most likely to interest a political historian is this one.  In the video, Tim Wright of the University of Sheffield talks about Chinese companies responded to the Great Depression.

Here is the summary of his talk: “Globalization is nothing new, nor are economic crises.  Up to the late 1920s, the coastal areas of China were closely tied in to the world economy for many years, but this pattern was to some extent interrupted by the Great Depression, which had serious effects particularly on two of China’s staple exports, silk and soybeans. The Depression had, however, a very limited effect on total output in China, whether industrial production or GDP. It was nevertheless a very important event politically, and this was partly because of its effect on businesses in China, both foreign and Chinese owned. This presentation will argue that fluctuations in the value of China’s (silver) currency were crucial in determining the fate of business enterprises in this period. Specifically, those (Japanese-owned) business enterprises that used the gold yen suffered a sharp and catastrophic decline in their competitiveness from the very onset of the Depression in 1929. This brought forward a series of responses that culminated in Japan’s abandoning the gold standard and in the Japanese occupation of North-east China in 1931. In contrast, enterprises, whether Chinese- or foreign-owned, whose business was based on China’s silver-standard currency enjoyed a boom at the very time their Japanese competitors were suffering.  Their problems came in the mid 1930s when the value of China’s currency rose sharply against other currencies that had been taken off the gold standard. This led to a business crisis for these enterprises, whose manifestation was mainly in the form of falling profits rather than falling output. The government response involved a shift towards intervention in the economy on the part of the Nationalist state. The Nationalists’ currency reform was crucial to an improvement in the situation of the Chinese enterprises.”

OAH Magazine Special Issue on Business History

7 04 2010

Along with environmental history, business history is one of the fastest growing sub-fields of history at the moment. The January 2010  issue of the OAH Magazine of History was devoted to the current state of business historiography. The basic point of this theme issue was to show historians who do not identify themselves as business historians that business history is very relevant to their teaching and research.

The magazine included the following articles:

Bringing in Business History Front and Center
Pamela Walker Laird

Classic Issues and Fresh Themes in Business History
Philip Scranton

American Manufacturing, 1850-1930: A Business History Approach
Mansel Blackford

Business History in the Teaching American History Program
Stuart D. Hobbs

Newspapers, Radio, and the Business of Media in the United States
Michael Stamm

Selling Black Beauty: African American Modeling Agencies and Charm Schools in Postwar America
Malia McAndrew

Robert Noyce, Silicon Valley, and the Teamwork Behind the High-Technology Revolution
Leslie Berlin

Input Invited on New Business History Course

15 02 2010

Next year, I will be teaching a course called HIST-3226EL Tycoons: the Making of North American Capitalism

The course is based on a history-through-biography approach to teaching. Each lecture will focus on the life and times of a particular businessperson. Their biographies will be used to show how North American capitalism evolved in a particular epoch. Important course themes include: Canadian-American relations; the rise of Big Business in the 19th century; the explosive growth of capital markets; the place of ethnic and racial minorities in capitalism; great financial disasters; the impact of break-neck technological innovation on the economy and on society;  businesses that made money from warfare; the role of business in political conflict; successful businessmen who were members of persecuted racial and religious minorities; the differences between Canadian and American political and economic culture.

Below, I have posted the list of lectures. With the exception of 10 September, every lecture is about the life and times of a particular individual. Some of these individuals are famous, but in other cases they are obscure ( I have put explanatory hyperlinks in for such cases). Anyway, I am interested in what readers of this blog think about this list of lecture topics. Is there someone really important that I need to talk about who is missing from the list? I would really appreciate your feedback at this point, as I am planning to write the actual lectures in the summer of 2010. There are only so many lectures in the course and I had to make some painful choices (for instance, I’ve had to drop the idea of doing a lecture on Andrew Mellon. I also dropped my lecture on the Black businessman A.G. Gaston).

As you can see, all of my lectures are about men. I’m a bit disappointed that I was unable to find a suitable businesswoman I could structure a lecture around.  Keep in mind, that most of my lectures have to be based on scholarly works. Moreover, this is a history course and I would not feel comfortable delivering a lecture about a middle-aged person who is still active in business (e.g., Meg Whitman). There are lots of prominent businesswomen today, but much less in the way of secondary literature on businesswomen in the period covered by my course.  So I would appreciate any suggestions readers could provide.
5 September    Introduction
Joseph Schumpeter: Prophet of Innovation
10 September    Colonial Origins of the North American Economies
12 September
Alexander Hamilton
17 September
John Molson
19 September    Sir George Simpson
24 September    Francis Cabot Lowell
26 September    Isaac Franklin,  Slave Merchant
1 October    Cornelius Vanderbilt
3 October    Luther Hamilton Holton
8 October    Sir William Christopher Macdonald
10 October    MID TERM
15 October John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil
17 October    Sir William Mackenzie: Railway King of Canada

22 October Study Week- No Class
24 October    Study Week-No Class
29 October    Erastus Wiman and Continental Union
31 October    Alexander Graham Bell  and the Telephone Revolution
5 November Andrew Carnegie: the Gospel of Wealth
7 November    Sir Joseph Flavelle: a Canadian Millionnaire
12 November    Henry Ford vs. Alfred P. Sloan: a Study in Contrasts
14 November    Chang Toy, Kingpin of Vancouver’s Chinatown
19 November    Sam Bronfman and the House of Seagram
21 November    Paul Desmarais and Power Corp.
26 November    K.C. Irving and New Brunswick
28 November    Ron Joyce: Master of the Donut
3 December    Sherman Fairchild and the Creation of Silicon Valley
5 December    Exam Review

Graham D. Taylor and Peter A. Baskerville, A Concise History of Business in Canada (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994). ISBN-10: 0-19-540978-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-540978-9


Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart : the Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Harvard University Press, 2009)

Joe Martin Interviewed on BNN

28 10 2009

Joe Martin was recently interviewed on BNN about his new book on Canadian business history, Relentless Change. You can watch the interview here.

Program of “Globalization and the Making of Canada: Canada’s International Economic Linkages from the Fur Trade to the 21st Century”

17 09 2009
Unknown Artist, Port of Halifax, 1830s

Unknown Artist, Port of Halifax, 1830s

Workshop Theme:

Globalization is transforming Canada and the world. Moreover, it is a process whose roots go back a long time. For many people, the term globalization refers only to developments in the last few decades. The reality is that there have been successive waves of globalization going back centuries.  The papers presented at this workshop will show that globalization has been transforming Canada since the time of the fur trade. The picture above of a ship leaving Halifax harbour in the 1830s is, in a sense, documentary evidence of early globalization. By some measures, the world was more globalized in July 1914 than it is today. The fact that there have been successive waves of globalization and de-globalization helps to falsify the widespread notion that the process of globalization is inevitable or irreversible. The research presented at this workshop will also remind us that globalization is historically contingent and shaped by the decisions by policymakers and other actors. Another aim of the workshop is to connect Canadian historiography with the burgeoning body of literature on the history of globalization and international trade.

Workshop Venue: Woerner House. Woerner House is the conference facility owned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, which is located in Waterloo, Ontario. It is located in a wooded area roughly thirty minutes from the University of Waterloo campus.

Please note that the papers are protected by passwords. To obtain the passwords, please contact Andrew Smith.

Friday, 29 January 2010

1:00-1:30 Registration

1:30-1:50 Opening Remarks by Andrew Smith, Laurentian University.

2:00-3:00 Session 1: Early Globalization

Professor Mike Dove, Department of History, University of Western Ontario. “Pelts and Profits as Precursors: Antecedents of Globalization in the Canadian Fur Trade”

Professor George Colpitts, Department of History, University of Calgary.  “Early Globalization and the Pricing of Plains Provisions for the Canadian Fur Trade, 1811-1882

3:00-3:15 COFFEE BREAK

3:15-4:35 Session 2: Globalization and the British Empire

Professor Andrew Smith, Department of History, Laurentian University.  “Globalization in British North America in the 1860s: the Economic Foundations of Confederation?

Dr. Andrew Dilley, Department of History, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. “Development Politics and Power in the British World: The City of London and the early years of Ontario-Hydro paper

Commentator: Professor William Coleman, Canada Research Chair on Global Governance and Public Policy, McMaster University.

4:35-4:45 COFFEE BREAK

4:45-5:55 Session 3: Globalization and Canadian Natural Resources

Dr. Daryl White, Grande Prairie Regional College, Alberta. “ Managing a War Metal: the International Nickel Company’s First World War

Professor Mark Kuhlberg, Department of History, Laurentian University. “The Myth of Provincial Protectionism in Ontario’s Forest Industry, 1894-1963

Professor Herb Emery, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “Natural Resources Exports, Wealth, and Accumulation and Development in Settler Economies: North-western Ontario and South Australia, 1905-1915

6:05-6:35 Keynote Address,”Canada’s Place in Global Business: Past, Present, Future”, Professor Matthias Kipping, Chair in Business History, Schulich School of Business, York University.

6:35-7:15 RECEPTION

7:15-7:45 Travel to Conference Dinner location (Blackshop Restaurant)


Saturday 30 January 2010


9:00-10:20 Session 4: The Political Economy of International Trade 1867-1914

Professor Eugene Beaulieu, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “The Political Economy of Canadian Trade Policy from 1881 to 1925

Mr. Jevan Cherniwchan, Department of Economics, University of Calgary. “The Restrictiveness of Canada’s Trade Policy: 1880-1910

Michael Huberman, Département d’Histoire, Université de Montréal, “ Riding the Wave of Trade: Explaining the Rise of Labour Regulation in the Golden Age of Globalization

10:20-10:30 COFFEE BREAK

10:30-11:50 Session 5: Multinational Enterprise and Canada

Dr. Greig Mordue, Toyota Canada. “Public Policy Meets Industrial Strategy: Building Paradigmatic Change in the Canadian Auto Industry, 1945-1960”

Professor Graham Taylor, Department of History, Trent University. “The The Whisky Kings: The International Expansion of Seagram, 1934-2001

Professor Robin Gendron, Department of History, Nipissing University. “Seeds of Decline: Inco and Globalisation in the Nickel Industry 1960s and 1970s

Commentator: Professor Joe Martin, Director of Canadian Business History, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

12:00-1:00 LUNCH

1:00-2:30 Session 6: The Political Economy of International Trade Since 1945

Dr. Michael Stevenson, Schulich School of Business, York University. ” The Limits of Alliance: Cold War Solidarity and Canadian Wheat Exports to China, 1950-1963

Professor Bruce Muirhead, Department of History, University of Waterloo. “Canadian Participation in the International Monetary Fund, 1944 – 1973”

Commentator:  TBA.

2:30-2:45 COFFEE BREAK

2:45-3:15 Roundtable Discussion


Any questions about this workshop should be sent to adsmith@laurentian.ca . If you wish to attend the workshop, please let us know by 10 January 2010.

Organizing Committee:

Dimitry Anastakis, Trent University
Eugene Beaulieu, University of Calgary
Herb Emery, University of Calgary
Mark Kuhlberg, Laurentian University
Andrew Smith, Laurentian University (Contact Person)

We would like to thank CIGI for its generous support of this workshop.

The image above is in the public domain and is available from the Wikimedia Commons (click here).

Driving Directions:
View Larger Map

Book Launch: Joe Martin’s “Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History”

12 08 2009

I thought I would let folks know about the launch parties for Joe Martin‘s new book on Canadian Business History, Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, September 2009)Add New

The Rotman School of Management has organized public events in Winnipeg and Toronto to celebrate the publication of Joe Martin’s wonderful new book on Canadian business history. You and your guests are invited to register to attend.  Canada’s National History Society will co-host each. Here are the details:

DATE: Monday, September 21, 2009 – WINNIPEG

TIMING: 5:30 sharp to 6:20pm presentation and Q&A; 6:20 to 7:30pm cocktails and book signing

SPEAKER: Joe Martin, Director, Canadian Business History Program, Adjunct Professor of Business Strategy and Executive in Residence, Rotman School of Management, U of Toronto; Author, “Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History”  (Rotman/U of Toronto Press, September 2009)

TOPIC: “Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History”

PLACE: The Fort Garry Hotel, 222 Broadway, Winnipeg (Concert Hall Ballroom, 7th Floor)

EVENT CO-HOST: Canada’s National History Society

FEE: $39.95 per person plus GST (includes presentation, 1 signed copy of ‘Relentless Change” and cocktails)

TO REGISTER: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/events

QUESTIONS: events@rotman.utoronto.ca or call 416-946-7462

DATE: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 – TORONTO

TIMING: 5:00 sharp to 5:50pm presentation and Q&A; 5:50 to 7:00pm cocktails and book signing

SPEAKER: Joe Martin, Director, Canadian Business History Program, Adjunct Professor of Business Strategy and Executive in Residence, Rotman School of Management, U of Toronto; Author, “Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History”  (Rotman/U of Toronto Press, September 2009)

TOPIC: “Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History”

PLACE: Rotman School of Management, 105 St. George Street, Toronto (Fleck Atrium, Ground Floor)

EVENT CO-HOST: Canada’s National History Society

FEE: $39.95 per person plus GST (includes presentation, 1 signed copy of ‘Relentless Change” and cocktails)

TO REGISTER: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/events

QUESTIONS: events@rotman.utoronto.ca or call 416-946-7462

If you know others who would be interested in receiving this invitation, please forward it to them.  Alternatively you can email us their contact details (mailto:events@rotman.utoronto.ca) and we will invite them.