Abstract: Toward a Business History of Globalization

Michael Miller


This is a paper about how the history of the maritime business world in the twentieth century translates into an empirical history of globalization. The paper addresses three questions: How were the webs that made possible the close and constant inter-penetration of global and local— effectively the definition of globalization—constructed? Why did these global systems work? And how did this history proceed, or how should we historicize globalization in the twentieth century? To answer the first question I stress the pervasive, intertwined, and composite character of maritime port, shipping, and trading networks. To answer the second question I look to the hybridity of identities and realms of action that enabled maritime men and maritime companies to mobilize networks and resources at both ends of the local-global spectrum, and thus to effect globalization. To answer the third question, I challenge current paradigms and argue for a history of globalization, albeit sensitive to its mutations, occurring across all of the twentieth century.