Money, Finance, and Capital
2018 Business History Conference Annual Meeting
Baltimore, Maryland, April 5 – April 7, 2018
Money, Finance, and Capital is the theme of the 2018 Business History Conference meeting. Historians who want to write compelling histories of capitalism must grapple with the manifold roles that money, finance, and capital have played in political, economic, social and cultural dynamics. Yet, for many years, the abstruse and elusive character of these phenomena encouraged many historians of economic life to maintain a safe distance from them. Of course, there have always been some historians willing to figure out where money, finance, and capital fit into broader histories of our societies. Still, much of what we know about currency and credit, investment and profit, bonds and futures results from highly specialised research whose technical quality reinforces the enigmatic character of these subjects.
Historians are not alone in encountering difficulties in making sense of money, finance, and capital. In 1931, for example, when distinguished British economist, John Maynard Keynes, gave a radio address on the “slump”, he emphasised that “the behaviour of the financial system and the banking system is capable of suddenly going off the rails, so to speak, and interfering with everyone’s prosperity for obscure and complicated reasons.” Keynes pointed out that it was unreasonable to expect the ”man in the street” to understand such reasons. Yet, he also emphasised that professed experts tended ”to talk much greater rubbish than an ordinary man” largely because ”the science of economics, of banking, of finance is in a backward state.” More recently, Alan Greenspan infamously admitted his “shocked disbelief” at the onset of the recent crisis and former governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, portrayed money and finance as “alchemy”. Technical expertise in these domains, it seems, is not necessarily a route to greater understanding.
Fortunately, money, finance, and capital have moved to the forefront in many historiographies in recent years. Whether it is the business of slave plantations and trade, of consumer credit and railroading, of government finance, securities markets and international banking, the history of business offers exciting insights on these important and perplexing themes. That was already apparent in some of the pioneering research that historians carried out on money, finance, and capital and it has become clearer still with the recent new wave of research by political, cultural, social, literary and economic historians.
The theme of the 2018 BHC conference is designed to encourage contributions from a variety of approaches to historical research on the themes of money, finance, and capital, covering a broad range of periods and geographies. The program committee of David Sicilia (chair), Christy Ford Chapin, Per Hansen, Naomi Lamoreaux, Rory Miller, Julia Ott, and Mary O’Sullivan (BHC president) invites papers addressing, inter alia, the following questions:
- How have money, finance, and capital bound different people and places together over time in relationships of mutual advantage, dependence or exploitation?
- How much change do we observe in concepts such as currency, credit, and capital and their associated practices between more distant and recent pasts?
- What is the role of money, finance, and capital in the emergence and persistence of varieties of capitalism around the world?
- What historical variations do we observe among businesses in their conception and measurement of capital, its control, investment and utilisation, as well as in the risks and rewards associated with it?
- Without neglecting the post-World War II trend towards “financialization”, what might we say about the changing relationship between finance and capital over the very long run?
- What has been the role of money, finance, and capital in the origins and diffusion of international crises in history?
- What types of commentators have generated powerful ideas about money, finance, and capital? How have economic commentators, historians, business leaders, journalists and other writers helped to construct and contest these ideas?
- Do the historical roles of money, finance, and capital allow us to demarcate capitalism as a distinctive type of social organisation or does it suggest, as Deirdre McCloskey claims, that the term “capitalism” is a scientific mistake?
While we encourage proposals to take up this theme, papers addressing all other topics will receive equal consideration by the program committee in accordance with BHC policy. The program committee will consider both individual papers and entire panels. Individual paper proposals should include a one-page (300 word) abstract and one-page curriculum vitae (CV). Panel proposals should include a cover letter stating the rationale for the panel and the name of its contact person; one-page (300 word) abstract and author’s CV for each paper; and a list of preferred panel chairs and commentators with contact information. To submit a proposal go to http://thebhc.org/2018meeting and click on the link Submit a Paper/Panel Proposal.
All sessions take place at the Embassy Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor. Rooms (all suites) are $159/night and include a full breakfast.
The K. Austin Kerr Prize will be awarded for the best first paper delivered by a new scholar at the annual meeting. A “new scholar” is defined as a doctoral candidate or a Ph. D. whose degree is less than three years old. You must nominate your paper for this prize on the proposal submission page where indicated. Please check the appropriate box if your proposal qualifies for inclusion in the Kerr Prize competition.
The deadline for receipt of all proposals is 2 October 2017. Acceptance letters will be sent by 31 December 2017. Everyone appearing on the program must register for the meeting. Graduate students and recent PhDs (within 3 years of receipt of degree) whose papers are accepted for the meeting may apply for funds to partially defray their travel costs; information will be sent out once the program has been set.
The BHC awards the Herman E. Krooss Prize for the best dissertation in business history by a recent Ph.D. in history, economics, business administration, the history of science and technology, sociology, law, communications, and related fields. To be eligible, dissertations must be completed in the three calendar years immediately prior to the 2018 annual meeting, and may only be submitted once for the Krooss prize. After the Krooss committee has reviewed the proposals, it will ask semi-finalists to submit copies of their dissertations. Finalists will present summaries of their dissertations at a plenary session of the 2018 BHC annual meeting and will receive a partial subsidy of their travel costs to the meeting. Proposals accepted for the Krooss Prize are not eligible for the Kerr Prize. If you wish to apply for this prize please send a cover letter indicating you are applying for the Krooss prize along with a one-page CV and one-page (300 word) dissertation abstract via email to BHC@Hagley.org. The deadline for proposals for the Krooss prize is 2 October 2017.
The BHC Doctoral Colloquium in Business History will be held in conjunction with the BHC annual meeting. This prestigious workshop, funded by Cambridge University Press, will take place in Baltimore Wednesday April 4 and Thursday April 5. Typically limited to ten students, the colloquium is open to early stage doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research within the broad field of business history, from any relevant discipline. Topics (see link for past examples) may range from the early modern era to the present, and explore societies across the globe. Participants work intensively with a distinguished group of BHC-affiliated scholars (including at least two BHC officers), discussing dissertation proposals, relevant literatures and research strategies, and career trajectories. Applications are due by 15 November 2017 via email to BHC@Hagley.org should include: a statement of interest; CV; preliminary or final dissertation prospectus (10-15 pages); and a letter of support from your dissertation supervisor (or prospective supervisor). Questions about the colloquium should be sent to its director, Edward Balleisen, firstname.lastname@example.org. All participants receive a stipend that partially defrays travel costs to the annual meeting. Applicants will receive notification of the selection committee’s decisions by 20 December 2017.
General questions regarding the BHC’s 2018 annual meeting may be sent to Secretary-Treasurer Roger Horowitz, email@example.com.