The Exchange: The BHC Weblog


William Lazonick, professor in the Department of Regional Economic and Social Development and director of the Center for Industrial Competitiveness at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (and past president of the Business History Conference), has been named a co-winner of this year's Schumpeter Prize, awarded by the International Joseph A. Schumpeter Society. Professor Lazonick was honored for his recent book, Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? Business Organization and High-Tech Employment in the United States (Upjohn Institute, 2009).  The prize is awarded every two years to recognize a recent scholarly contribution related to the work of Joseph Schumpeter; this year the theme of the prize competition was “Innovation, Organization, Sustainability and Crises.” According to the Society's press release,

Lazonick’s book analyzes the transformation of the mode of business organization that characterizes US high-tech industry. He shows how a business model that was an engine of innovation in the 1980s and 1990s has resulted in an inequitable income distribution and unstable employment. Lazonick argues that, with increasing inequity and recurring instability in the 2000s, the engine of innovation has stalled. At the root of the problem is the corporate focus on stock-price performance, manifested in large-scale stock buybacks and the explosion of executive pay. This book is essential for understanding how the “financialization” of US industrial corporations has weakened the US economy and contributed to the current crisis.

A press release from UMass Lowell is available here.  An introductory chapter of the book is available on the Upjohn Institute Website.

The Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) has now posted the preliminary program for its upcoming annual meeting. A program overview and schedule of sessions are available, as well as the full program.  The meeting will take place in Tacoma, Washington, from September 30 to October 3, 2010.  For addition information, including registration and lodging information, and much more about Tacoma, please see the SHOT meeting page.

The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism, by UCLA professor emerita Joyce Appleby, has been receiving quite a bit of general media attention.  Readers wishing to learn more about the book can choose among a plethora of reviews and author interviews. A sampling:
The book was reviewed by Stephen Mihm in the New York Times Book Review;
 by James K. Galbraith for the Chicago Tribune; by Alan Ryan for the Literary Review; and by Paul Hohenberg for EH.Net Reviews. Professor Appleby can be seen discussing the book in interviews on C-Span and on YouTube here and here; there is a print interview on the UCLA Website. An excerpt from the Mihm review:

[Appleby] captures how a new generation of now forgotten economic writers active long before Adam Smith built a case “that the elements in any economy were negotiable and fluid, the exact opposite of the stasis so long desired.” This was a revolution of the mind, not machines, and it ushered in profound changes in how people viewed everything from usury to joint stock companies. As she bluntly concludes, “there can be no capitalism . . . without a culture of capitalism.”

A book excerpt can be found here.

The Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa has received an anonymous gift for the purpose of creating the Father Edgar Thivierge Chair in Business History. Funded by a $3.5 million donation, the chair will be filled for the 2011-2012 academic year. According to the School's website,

The first holder of the Chair will be appointed in the upcoming months and will tap into his or her expertise and interests in business history to help design and deliver a new curriculum through which students can add a historical context to their exploration of business and, in the process, better understand the world they will face as business leaders.

The Chair will also develop a research program in Canadian business history as it applies to management in the private, public and non-profit sectors, thus contributing to the progress of management expertise and leadership in Canada. Using a collaborative approach with other teachers, thinkers and researchers, the Chair aims to broaden the body of knowledge in management science by shedding light on the many facets of business history, including insights into family businesses, models of governance, financial systems, corporate structures, and the social, political and economic factors that shape our country. 

Father Thivierge taught at the University of Ottawa from 1927 to 1966.  Additional information can be found in the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Business Journal.

Tip of the hat to Andrew Smith's blog.

Bank note from the Bank of the
United States, Dec. 1840 (GLC01994.02)

The June issue of History Now, the web-based journal published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, focuses on "The Shaping of the American Economy." The contents of the issue, which include a slide show, lesson plans, bibliography, and links to additional digital sources, feature essays by several business and economic historians.  As outlined by Carol Berkin, the journal's editor:

Our overview essay, “Getting Ready to Lead a World Economy: Enterprise in Nineteenth Century America,” is written by Joyce Appleby. In it she traces the rise of liberal capitalism and the spirit of enterprise that catapulted the United States into a leadership role in the modern world. Next, Richard Sylla unlocks the mysteries of the banking system in his essay “The U.S. Banking System: Origins, Development and Regulation,” explaining the functions banks perform and how their role in our economy has expanded and undergone regulation over past centuries. In “The Rise of an American Institution: The Stock Market,” Brian Murphy traces the evolution of a convenient ad hoc trading arrangement into one of the most influential institutions in American society. T.J. Stiles then confronts the longstanding argument over the larger than life entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century in his essay “Robber Barons or Captains of Industry?” And, finally, Professor Roger E. A. Farmer sheds light on the intersection of government and the economy in his essay “Economic Policy Through the Lens of History.”

The new Journal of Historical Research in Marketing has put out several calls for papers for special issues.

"The Evolution of Key Marketing Concepts": Guest editor: Ben Wooliscroft; due date for submissions: 1 July 2011

"Marketing, Public Policy, and History: Looking Backward and Ahead": Guest editors: Andrew Pressey, Maria Piacentini, Mark Tadajewsky, and Finola Kerrigan; due date for submissions: 1 December 2012

"Marketing Sport through the Ages": Guest editors: J. Andrew Ross and Stephen Hardy; due date for submissions: 30 January 2012

Please follow the links for full information about these calls.

A brief sampling of business and economic history books recently or soon to be out in paperback:

Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, eds., The Origins and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions from the Seventeenth Century to the Present (Cambridge University Press [UK], July 2010);


Warren Belasco and Roger Horowitz, eds., Food Chains: From Farmyard to Shopping Cart (University of Pennsylvania Press, Aug. 2010);

Robert Friedel and Paul Israel, Edison's Electric Light: The Art of Invention (Johns Hopkins University Press, July 2010);

Ann Smart Martin, Buying into the World of Goods: Early Consumers in Backcountry Virginia (Johns Hopkins University Press, Aug. 2010);

Thomas K. McCraw, Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction (Harvard University Press, March 2010);

Christopher D. McKenna, The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, Feb. 2010);

Bethany Moreton, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Harvard University Press, Aug. 2010);

Mark H. Rose, Bruce E. Seely, and Paul F. Barrett, The Best Transportation System in the World: Railroads, Trucks, Airlines, and American Public Policy in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, May 2010);

Mark R. Wilson, The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861-1865 (Johns Hopkins University Press, Sept. 2010).

In the April 23 Wall Street Journal's Saturday Essay, "Outfoxing the Counterfeiters," Stephen Mihm of the University of Georgia discusses the U.S. government's attempts, dating back to colonial times, to foil currency forgery. "If history is any guide," writes Mihm, who is the author of A Nation of Counterfeiters, the latest attempt to forestall counterfeiters "won't be the last. Paper money in this country has followed a familiar trajectory: new designs, new dollars and, eventually, new counterfeits."   Discussing the period of the American Revolution, Mihm writes:

It's perhaps appropriate that Benjamin Franklin appears on the most valuable denomination of dollar in circulation. He designed the country's first money: the Continental dollars issued during the American Revolution to pay the costs of the war. . . . In 1776, the British occupied New York City and the counterfeiters who had already set up shop began operating under the supervision of the imperial authorities, churning out massive quantities of notes that visitors could buy for pennies and then pawn off on unsuspecting revolutionaries. . . . The quality of the British counterfeits undercut the credibility of the dollar, but the real blame for the dollar's decline lay with the revolutionaries, who issued vast quantities of Continentals to pay the costs of the war. Backed by nothing more than a shaky faith in the government, the notes depreciated, eventually becoming nearly worthless. The experience left Americans with serious misgivings about paper currency, both counterfeit and real.

The new bill will go into circulation in February 2011.

 Tip of the hat to the Legal History Blog.

Richard R. John, author of Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications—recently  published by Harvard University Press (May 2010)—was interviewed about his book for C-Span at the April OAH meeting. John, who is a professor in the Journalism School at Columbia University, is the current president of the Business History Conference.
A brief excerpt:

We sometimes tell the history of telegraph and telephone focusing on technology and economics; and that's really not what happened.  In fact the telegraph and telephone both developed in a political economy in which government regulation was really essential to the way the business strategies of the key players evolved. . . . Regulation really mattered in American history.

John is the author or editor of several other books, most notably Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse.

Although You Tube is perhaps not the first place that comes to mind when one searches for the work of business and economic historians on-line, many institutions in fact use the site to upload scholarly talks and discussions.  A quick search, for example, found the following:

Richard Sylla, "The 1929 Crash: The Great Myth" (CNN Money)
Christopher Kobrak, "Financial Crisis: A History in 5 Crises" (ESCP Europe)
Leslie Berlin, "Robert Noyce: The Man behind the Microchip" (Google)
Barry Eichengreen, "The Financial Crisis" (1 0f 4)
Niall Ferguson, "Global Economic Growth Shifting East" (1 of 3) (Charlie Rose)
Geoffrey Jones, on "Beauty Imagined" (Centre for Business History, Stockholm)
Roger Owen and Robert Tignor, "Global History, Local History: Egypt in Time and Place" (American University, Cairo)
Richard Tedlow, "IBM 360 Case," Computer Museum
David Kennedy, "Lessons from FDR's New Deal" (UCTV)
AHA 2009 "Subprime Crisis Panel": Stephen Mihm (HNN)
OAH 2009, "New Work on the New Deal," Louis Hyman (HNN)
Naomi Lamoreaux, "The Economic Performance of Civilizations" (USC)

Many academic talks and interviews have been captured on video and uploaded to the Web in addition to those on You Tube.  Some examples of those in a later post.