The Exchange: The BHC Weblog

The Academic Association of Historians in Australian and New Zealand Business Schools (AAHANZBS) has posted the program for their 2010 meeting, which will be held at the Women's College, University of Sydney, December 16-17, 2010. The conference organizer is Greg Patmore; the keynote speaker will be Geoffrey Jones, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History at the Harvard Business School.  A registration form is also available.

The New-York Historical Society library has recently unveiled a digitized collection of manuscripts relating to slavery and the slave trade from its holdings. Economic historians of the subject can find much of interest here; as the NYHS introduction explains, the materials "consist of diaries, account books, letter books, ships’ logs, indentures, bills of sale, personal papers, and records of institutions," including an account book kept by the slave trading firm Bolton, Dickens & Co. 

Page from the account book of the Brig Othello,
slaving off the coast of Africa, 1768-1769 (NYHS)

Many materials relating to the abolitionist movement have also been made available, including "the records of the New York Manumission Society and the African Free School, the diaries and correspondence of English abolitionists Granville Sharp and John Clarkson, the papers of the Boston anti-slavery activist Lysander Spooner, the records of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, [and] the draft of Charles Sumner’s famous speech, 'The Anti-Slavery Enterprise'." Over 12,000 pages have been digitized.

The Program in Economic History, a part of the Economic Growth Center at Yale University, has announced the program for its conference, "Before and Beyond Europe: Economic Change in Historical Perspective," to be held February 25-26, 2011. In the words of the organizers:

It is broadly held now, following Douglass C. North and others, that History matters to Economics.  This shift has contributed to a rebirth in Economic History and inspired lively debates and new and exciting cross-disciplinary exchange.  This conference aims to capture this new dynamism in Economic History by inviting scholars working on Economic History from different disciplinary angles, in different historical periods, and in many areas of the world.  Topics in the conference range from the Ancient Mediterranean to Medieval Europe, from Early Modern China to Modern Africa.  Its premise is that cross-disciplinary dialogue is best cultivated in a collegial atmosphere and by discussion of innovative empirical research. 

Naomi Lamoreaux, professor of economics and history at Yale, will open the meeting. The web version of the program provides links to abstracts of most of the papers. Please check the Program in Economic History site later for more details.

Catherine Fisk of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law has been awarded the John Phillip Reid Book Award of the American Society for Legal History for Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009). The award is for the best monograph beyond an author’s first book published in English in Anglo-American legal history, broadly defined. The ASLH citation read in part:

Catherine Fisk’s Working Knowledge is a book of many different virtues. It takes on a novel question—when, how, and why did corporations come pervasively to own and control the intellectual property created by their employees?—and it brings to bear prodigious primary research, not just in case law but in corporate archives as well. By combining these two types of sources, among others, Fisk delivers a compelling story of doctrinal development—especially in the areas of patent, copyright, and trade secrets—but also grounds that story in a textured history of the internal practices and cultures of DuPont, Eastman Kodak, and other companies known for innovation in the early 20th century. Moreover, Fisk brings together a range of literatures that do not always make contact with each other: the literatures of legal history, of business history, of labor history, and of cultural history, among others. Adroitly deploying all of this research, she delivers a highly readable narrative that exposes the mutability of historical perspectives on identity and creativity. She offers us both a big, satisfying narrative arc and a collection of smaller arguments and speculations.

Working Knowledge was also awarded the 2010 Littleton-Griswold Prize in American Law and Society of the American Historical Association.

Tip of the hat to the Legal History Blog.

A reminder that the application deadline for the 2011 Oxford Journals Doctoral Colloquium in Business History is December 1, 2010.

The Colloquium will be held in conjunction with the Business History Conference annual meeting in St. Louis. This prestigious workshop, sponsored by the BHC and generously funded by Oxford University Press, which publishes the BHC journal Enterprise & Society, will take place Wednesday evening, March 30, 2011, and all day Thursday, March 31, 2011. The Colloquium is limited to ten students. Participants will discuss dissertation proposals, relevant literatures and research strategies, and employment opportunities in business history with distinguished BHC-affiliated scholars, including at least two BHC officers. The Colloquium is intended for doctoral candidates in the early stages of their dissertation projects.

To be considered for the Colloquium, applicants must provide:

a statement of interest
a CV
a preliminary or final dissertation prospectus of 10-15 pages
a letter of support sent directly from the dissertation supervisor (or prospective supervisor)

Submit the above materials to Roger Horowitz, Secretary-Treasurer, Business History Conference, P. O. Box 3630, Wilmington, DE 19807, USA. Phone: (302) 658-2400; fax: (302) 655-3188; or via email at by December 1, 2010.

All participants receive a stipend that will partially cover the costs of their attendance at the annual meeting. The Colloquium committee will notify all applicants of its decisions by January 10, 2011.

Questions about the Doctoral Colloquium may be directed to:

Pamela W. Laird, Ph.D.
BHC Doctoral Colloquium Director
Professor, History Department
University of Colorado Denver
Denver, CO 80217-3364 USA

American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism (Random House, October 2010), by H. W. Brands, has been receiving a good deal of media attention, both critical and approving. It was reviewed by John Steele Gordon in the November 18 New York Times, and by Amity Shlaes in the Wall Street Journal on October 29. Extensive newspaper coverage includes reviews for the San Francisco Chronicle by T. J. Stiles, by Steve Weinberg for the Dallas Morning News, and by Ezra Klein for the Barnes and Noble Review (on, An excerpt is available on the Random House site. An audio  interview of Brands by Lewis Lapham of Bloomberg is available, as are another with Michael Medved of the American Conservative University and a video podcast sponsored by the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago. The C-Span video library presents video of a panel (called "The Age of Titans") from the Texas Book Festival that includes both Brands and T. J. Stiles. Stiles is the author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography.

Brand's book follows in the wake of other recent works on American capitalism, including Joyce Appleby's Relentless Revolution, noted earlier on this blog.

The XVIth World Economic History Congress of the International Economic History Association (IEHA) will take place in Stellenbosch, South Africa, July 9-13, 2012. The organization has recently issued the second call for session proposals:

Although the IEHA welcomes sessions on all topics in economic history, history of economics, demographic history, social history, urban history, cultural history, gender studies, methodological aspects of historical research, and related fields, the WEHC 2012 theme is “Exploring the Roots of Development.” The IEHA has, therefore, a particularly strong desire to attract sessions on the period before 1800 and sessions that include countries other than those of Western Europe and North America. Organisers will be given wide discretion to shape the format of sessions to be the most interesting and efficient, given the topic and the participants invited.

Session proposals must be submitted via the online submission form. Those submitting proposals will be asked to provide the following information: the name(s), title(s), and institutional affiliation(s) of the organizer(s), contact details, the proposed title for the session, a session abstract explaining the aim and relevance of the session, the number of papers expected, and the names and affiliations of those who have agreed in principle to participate. Session proposals must be submitted in English. Note that "The IEHA Executive Committee does not expect session organisers to present a full panel of participants; indeed organisers are encouraged to make an open call for papers once their session has been selected for the programme."

The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2011.  Please see the complete call for sessions for additional information.

The organizers of an international colloquium on "Merchant Practice in the Age of Commerce, 1650-1850 (no website yet available)," to be held in Paris, France, June 9-10, 2011, have issued the following call for papers:

The goal of this colloquium is to explore new ways of analyzing and conceptualizing commercial activity in the preindustrial age. Commerce was central to European and colonial economies at the time, and considerable historiographical work has been devoted to its study.  Recent research, however, has tended to focus on network-building in a sociological tradition, without really dealing with more strictly economic issues such as price formation, market structures, or the nature of managerial organizations. The latter questions are thus usually left for standard economic theory to answer, with the result that tools and notions from current economic analysis, from market formation to price signals, offer and demand, managerial strategy, or profit-making. This colloquium, which is funded by the French project MARPROF (Compte et profits marchands d'Europe et d'Amériques, 1750-1800), aims to encourage discussion of new conceptualizations of commercial activity, specifically based on what the economic actors at the time actually did and thought.
Pages from Jacob Adams account book,
1673-1693 (Baker Library
Historical Collections, HBS).

Issues for discussion include whether it is possible to elaborate analyses of profit not as a finite, mathematical quantity which can be calculated at regular intervals, but as a qualitative judgment combining some quantitative elements and other, broader qualitative assessments, especially related to credit standings; whether interpersonal network strategies can be read as credit-boosting and/or risk-avoiding strategies going beyond opportunistic behavior; which economic and non-economic constraints these strategies take into account, and in what discursive way; how product quality and quality scales can be built and articulated to the institutional framework of quality control developed in modern states, through the apparently fuzzy vocabulary and imprecise references used by the merchants themselves; how strategic and tactical choices are reached, and constrained, by reference to all these elements; which tools, quantitative (account books, e.g.) or qualitative (correspondence, e.g.) are used in what way to verbalize judgment on all these points.

We wish to concentrate on what we call the Age of Commerce, a time span of some 200 years from the English Revolution to the first decades of the Industrial revolution, excluding fully developed industrial capitalist practices, which deeply transformed commerce and its management. Trade was by far the most visible, and most probably the fastest-growing economic sector throughout this period, and traders took part in what has been sometimes called a first globalization. The colloquium aims at attracting quantitative or other empirically based research focusing on specific aspects of merchant practices in order to offer novel interpretations of their use, by placing them within their specific historical context.

Interested scholars should submit a two-page (500 words maximum) proposal by January 15, 2011, to Researchers from all continents are welcome. The papers will be independently evaluated by the scientific committee; acceptance will be communicated no later than February 15, 2011.

A sampling of recently published and forthcoming books on topics of interest:

Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo, J. Carles Maixé-Altés, and Paul Thomes, eds.,  Technological Innovation in Retail Finance: International Historical Perspectives (Routledge, November 2010)
Michael B. Boston, The Business Strategy of Booker T. Washington: Its Development and Implementation (University Press of Florida, August 2010)
Craig Miner, A Most Magnificent Machine: America Adopts the Railroad, 1825-1862 (University Press of Kansas, October 2010)
Eric J. Morser, Hinterland Dreams: The Political Economy of a Midwestern City (University of Pennsylvania Press, November 2010)
Monica Neve, Sold! Advertising and the Bourgeois Female Consumer in Munich, c. 1900-1914 (Franz Steiner, October 2010)
Geoffrey Owen, The Rise and Fall of Great Companies: Courtaulds and the Reshaping of the Man-Made Fibres Industry (Oxford University Press, October 2010)
Caroline de la Peña, Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda (University of North Carolina Press, September 2010)
Stefan Schwarzkopf and Rainer Gries, eds., Ernest Dichter and Motivation Research: New Perspectives on the Making of Post-War Consumer Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, October 2010)
Rebecca Sharpless, Cooking in Other Women's Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960 (University of North Carolina Press, October 2010)
S. Jonathan Wiesen, Creating the Nazi Marketplace: Commerce and Consumption in the Third Reich (Cambridge University Press, December 2010)

The German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. (GHI) is seeking contributors for a massive project "aimed at fostering research into the cornerstones of the American experience." Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present will, according to the Institute,

consist of approximately 250 biographical articles of first- and second-generation German-American entrepreneurs, contextual essays that explore the wider business and immigration themes of the period, and a complementary website providing a wealth of additional material. . . . The project will trace their lives, careers and business ventures from colonial times to the present, integrating the history of German-American immigration into the larger narrative of U.S. economic and business history and situating the American past in a transnational framework. Key questions that will be addressed include the importance of business strategies, knowledge transfer, forms and sources of entrepreneurship, and change over time. . . . A project team at the GHI will coordinate an interdisciplinary group of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic who will contribute to a multi-volume print publication and an online platform. The electronic resource will include statistics and raw data on businesses and immigration, visual materials such as archival photos and video clips, interviews with contemporary entrepreneurs, business documents and personal correspondence.
German immigrant David G. Yuengling founded the
Eagle Brewery in 1829.

The volume editors are:

Volume 1: "From the Colonial Economy to Early Industrialization, 1720-1840": Marianne Wokeck (Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis)

Volume 2: "The Emergence of an Industrial Nation, 1840-1893": William J. Hausman (College of William & Mary)

Volume 3: "From the End of the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era, 1893-1918": Giles R. Hoyt (Max Kade German-American Research and Resource Center, Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis)

Volume 4: "The Age of the World Wars, 1918-1945": Jeff Fear (University of Redlands)

Volume 5: "From the Post-war Boom to Global Capitalism, 1945-Today": R. Daniel Wadhwani (University of the Pacific)

The GHI is seeking scholars who are interested and/or have done research on businesspeople, companies, industries, or regions where German-Americans were active to contribute a 15-20–page essay to this project. Contributors will receive an honorarium of $400. For more information, such as the project proposal, a list of potential candidates, and guidelines for writing an essay, please see or email the project coordinator Jessica Csoma.