Book review: Empire of Cotton

Cross-posted from the Imperial and Global Forum:

Empire of Cotton: A Global History, by Sven Beckert (2015)

 Edward Watson
University of Texas at Austin

Cross-posted from Not Even Past

Sven Beckert places cotton at the center of his colossal history of modern capitalism, arguing that the growth of the industry was the “launching pad for the broader Industrial Revolution.” Beckert follows cotton through a staggering spatial and chronological scope. Spanning five thousand years of cotton’s history, with a particular focus on the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, Empire of Cotton is a tale of the spread of industrialization and the rise of modern global capitalism. Through emphasizing the international nature of the cotton industry, Beckert exemplifies how history of the commodity and global history are ideally suited to each other. Produced over the course of ten years and with a transnational breadth of archive material, Empire of Cotton is a bold, ambitious work that confronts challenges that many historians could only dream of attempting.  The result is a popular history that is largely successful in attaining the desirable combination of being both rigorous and entertaining.

To read more go here.

Computers and Business History: Mira Wilkins Prize Winner

Reblogged from The Past Speaks:

The NEP-HIS Blog

IBM Rebuilds Europe: The Curious Case of the Transnational Typewriter
By Petri Paju (Turku) and Thomas Haigh (Wisconsin, Milwaukee).

Abstract: In the decade after the Second World War IBM rebuilt its European operations as integrated, wholly owned subsidiaries of its World Trade Corporation, chartered in 1949. Long before the European common market eliminated trade barriers, IBM created its own internal networks of trade, allocating the production of different components and products between its new subsidiaries. Their exchange relationships were managed centrally to ensure that no European subsidiary was a consistent net importer. At the heart of this system were eight national electric typewriter plants, each assembling parts produced by other European countries. IBM promoted these transnational typewriters as symbols of a new and peaceful Europe and its leader, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., was an enthusiastic supporter of early European moves toward economic integration. We argue that IBM’s humble typewriter and…

View original post 912 more words

Crafting your PhD proposal: Routes to originality in historical research

My colleague Richard Toye at Exeter wrote this interesting blog about originality in historical research – the equivalent of the theoretical contribution in management and organization studies.

Imperial & Global Forum

View original post 897 more words

ToC BH: Change in Referencing Style and SI on the Business of War


Change of referencing style
Stephanie Decker , Ray Stokes, Andrea Colli, Abe de Jong, Paloma Fernandez Perez & Neil Rollings
Pages: 1-3 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1386762
Special issue on: Business of war

War and economy. Rediscovering the eighteenth-century military entrepreneur |
Rafael Torres-Sánchez, Pepijn Brandon & Marjolein ‘t Hart
Pages: 4-22 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1379507


The impact of war: New business networks and small-scale contractors in Britain, 1739–1770
Gordon Bannerman
Pages: 23-40 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1312687


The French navy and war entrepreneurs: Identity, business relations, conflicts, and cooperation in the eighteenth century
David Plouviez
Pages: 41-56 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1366986


Military entrepreneurs and the development of the French economy in the eighteenth century
Pierrick Pourchasse
Pages: 57-71 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1351952


The Spanish monarchy as a contractor state in the eighteenth century: Interaction of political power with the market
Sergio Solbes Ferri
Pages: 72-86 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1349107


War contracting and artillery production in Spain
Agustín González Enciso
Pages: 87-104 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1379508


Shipbuilding administration under the Spanish Habsburg and Bourbon regimes (1590‒1834): A comparative perspective
Ivan Valdez-Bubnov
Pages: 105-125 | DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2017.1391219

E&S: SI on Histories of Business and Inequality


Enterprise and Society: The International Journal of Business History is seeking expressions of interest from teams wishing to act as Guest Editors of a Special Issue of the journal on ‘Histories of Business and Inequality.’ This issue will be the first in a new initiative recently announced by Enterprise and Society and Cambridge University Press. This initiative adds a fifth issue to the four published annually by the journal since it was founded in 2000. The new fifth issue, which will be published online, is designed to significantly enhance the reach and impact of business history by creating a space in which to explore inter-disciplinary dialogue and address very large scale problems in ways that are beyond the scope of conventional original research articles and typical thematically focused special issues.
In a significant departure from conventional practice the agenda for this new initiative will be set by the editorial team at Enterprise and Society. We will then seek bids from editorial teams able to show that they can take that agenda and shape it in creative ways that will enhance interdisciplinary dialogue within and beyond the fields of business history and history, leading to important and impactful new insights. The initiative aims to generate not only highly original new research but also, more importantly, bold and ambitious synthetic articles exploring the issue at hand in provocative ways. Successful editorial teams will be given an opportunity to organize a supporting workshop to be held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Business History Conference, on whose behalf Enterprise and Society is published. It is anticipated that the first issue of this initiative will be published in 2020. Please see below for further details of the proposed timeline.

Histories of Business and Inequality

Inequality – economic, social, and cultural – has been a feature of human societies for
millennia. Today, inequality, both within and between societies, is viewed as problematic. Governments and supranational institutions seek to develop policies aimed at the elimination or amelioration of inequality. Has inequality always been viewed as problematic and why is it viewed as problematic today? Critically, how has the relationship between inequality and business enterprises and activities been viewed over time and across societies? Has business been viewed as being responsible for causing inequality? Has it been viewed as having a responsibility to reduce inequality? Can we write histories of business and inequality? What conceptual and methodological challenges would such histories of business and inequality involve? By business we include private organizations of many types—corporations, families, partnerships, business groups, financial, industrial, trading and merchant enterprises, as well as
state owned enterprise and business in non-capitalist societies.


We seek expressions of interest from outstanding editorial teams. Bids will be assessed on their ability to fulfill the remit of the Special Issue. That ability will be assessed according to both the composition of the editorial team and how they propose to shape and address the chosen theme. Both should be aimed at ensuring interdisciplinary dialogue and scholarship and bold thinking.
Editorial teams must be comprised of a minimum of two individuals and must be
interdisciplinary. Interdisciplinarity is defined as least one member from beyond the field of business history, broadly defined. Team members may be drawn from the wider field of history or other cognate fields of study. International teams will be viewed favorably, as will teams combining established and emerging scholars. Alongside a description of the proposed editorial team, proposals should include a short
document (maximum of two pages, single spaced) outlining how the team proposes to shape and address the theme. The section above in this document outlining the theme of ‘Histories of Business and Inequality’ contains questions that are intended to be indicative only. Proposals should show creativity and initiative in the shaping and addressing the theme of Histories of Business and Inequality. In this respect, the main criteria will be the potential for generating interdisciplinary dialogue and fresh perspectives. This document will form the basis of the successful team’s subsequent Call for Papers. Proposals suggesting a variety of article formats will be welcomed.
It is important to stress that though published online all articles accepted for publication in the Special Issue will be subject to the same peer review and editorial processes as articles appearing in the regular print issues. They will also be produced and formatted to identical standards as those in regular print issues. Articles appearing in the Special Issue will be Enterprise and Society articles in every sense. Proposals, consisting of a description of the proposed editorial team, a document outlining how the theme will be shaped and addressed, and Curriculum Vitae for all team members, should be sent to Editor-in-Chief Andrew Popp by January 31st 2018 at
Enquiries from prospective teams are welcome and can be sent to the same email address.


  • Call for Guess Editors issued November 2017
  • Deadline for submission of proposals, January 31st 2018
  • Successful proposal, and its Call for Papers, announced at the Annual Meeting of the Business History Meeting, held in Baltimore, April 5th-7th 2018
  • Supporting developmental workshop held at the Annual Meeting of the Business
    History Conference, Cartegna (Columbia), March 14th-16th 2019, the preceding 11
    months allowing for initial submission, selection and review*
  • Issue published in Spring 2020, the preceding 12 months, approximately, allowing for subsequent review, selection, and production processes. The issue will be numbered and paginated as Vol. 20 No. 5 (2019)

* Attendance at the workshop by authors under consideration is strongly encouraged but not obligatory. Guest Editors will be given significant logistical support in organizing the workshop.

Call for Papers, EBHA 2018 Conference

The firm and the sea: chains, flows and connections

Call for Papers, EBHA 2018 Conference Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona – Italy September 6-8, 2018

The sea – whether considered as open ocean or as a mass of water bordered by land masses – is an enormous economic resource for mankind. Not only is it the principal way of transportation for goods and humans but it’s also a formidable source of food. Since we want to link the sea with the business unit (the firm, as well as other organizational units like clusters, networks and global value chains) the focus of the next EBHA conference will be on two units of analysis that are both extremely relevant for the sea as well as economic resources – ships and harbors.

In order to perform its function, the ship (a means for transporting goods and people) is run in a very hierarchical way, more than what occurs with a factory or a retail company (two good comparison points). Just as with a factory or retailer, ships embody economic goals to be achieved by workers, managers, and – this is the difference – CEOs whose decisions cannot be challenged given that the cargo and (more importantly) the life of its “inhabitants” can be at stake.

Rarely does the ship stand on its own as a business unit (unless we talk of an activity like fishing which is certainly important). It’s part of a group that refers to a shipowner acting in a very complicated world where the ups and downs of charters and continuous struggles with government regulations and policies render decisions delicate and complex.

The ship is the nexus of a tremendous amount of activity – just consider the shipyards, metallurgic factories, plants producing precision equipment, and those dedicated to heavy machinery. And think of other sectors like the extraction of raw materials and agricultural products that could have a real global circulation in relation to the capacity of the maritime vehicle.

Then there are associated service sectors such as insurance and banking activities focused on navigation (often with government support). Credit for navigation is a landmark of the modern economy with both successes as well as bankruptcies. Also worthy of further study is the role that passenger ships have played in the social and economic development of many nations. From the large ships of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that plied the Atlantic Ocean transporting passengers between the Americas and Europe to the postwar ocean liners that offered a glamorous way to travel to new destinations, ships helped make the tourism industry grow.

And we can’t close our eyes to some of the unlawful activities connected with the world of navigation including the illegal transportation of human beings, prohibited goods, and money laundering. Even today there are occasional episodes of piracy, something that we thought limited to history books and old novels.

The second actor we consider is strictly related to the first one – ports, an unavoidable reference point for ships that make them their destination for the goods and passengers on board. It’s in the port that a ship can stock materials needed when at sea and eventually undergo repairs before embarking on a new journey. We see the port as an


entrepreneur (formed by stakeholders with both common and divergent goals) which should be analyzed in an historical perspective. First are the many aspects of the governance of the port: who’s in charge? Is it a function of the State or the military? Is it a managerially run port authority that, even if designated by State powers, has relative autonomy in its actions? Are there private operators who handle the terminals? How does the type of governance impact a port’s efficiency? Second, we have to single out the crowd of operators in a port: maritime agents, stevedores, people who maneuver the cranes, pilots, dock workers. Several of these activities are strictly regulated, at times resulting in strong conflicts between various actors in the port.

The relationship between a port and the areas around it, the presence of appropriate infrastructures, and the many activities making up the field of logistics – all are tremendously important for the port as a kind of entrepreneur. Given their role of stimulating the trade of goods, raw materials and energy sources, the port becomes a key actor of the development of productive areas. Ports can strengthen or even launch the industrial take-off of the territories they supply. Moreover, ports are historically linked to global cities, nodes in a complex network of trade, but also of political international alliances, which emerged progressively in the phases of globalization (from Singapore to Hong Kong and from San Francisco to Yokohama, for example).

Even today seas and their ports remain a theater in which important geo-political and geo-economic stances take place; their relevance for business history can’t be underestimated. From the building or restructuring of infrastructures that are pillars of the first wave of globalization (the Suez and Panama Canals, for example) to new opportunities brought about by the latest waves of globalization, the sea continues to be an essential, physical component of the complex web of trade relations which allow the existence of global value chains that take advantage of its unique means of connection and communication.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Connections, links and networks in waves of globalization and de-globalization
  • Characteristics and dynamics of the shipping and logistics industries
  • The long run transformation of shipbuilding and related industries
  • The fishing industry
  • The history of insurance and banking activities related to navigation
  • Technological developments and their impact on ships and ports
  • The variety and features of illegal activities connected to sea transport
  • Features and management of companies connected with the world of navigation
  • Private and public entrepreneurship in sectors related to sea transportation
  • Workers and industrial relations in maritime industries
  • The governance of ports and their transformation over time
  • Relations of cooperation/competition among maritime companies and ports
  • The history and development of global value chains and networks

Last, but not least, ports, ships, and even the sea are highly sensitive to technological change and the resulting emergence of competitive and alternative infrastructures (from railways and motorways to airlines and large airport hubs).


  • The role played by firms and entrepreneurs in shaping the development of maritime exchanges of goods, services, and information, or in integrating economies and cultures
  • Seas, ports and climate change
  • Dynamics and impact of governmental policies and regulations on navigation
  • The political economy of connections and links
  • The impact of ports on their surrounding territory and vice versa
  • The geography and features of global cities and their transformation
  • The role of the sea in shaping the emergence and consolidation of different kinds of


  • Migrations flows across the sea
  • Passenger travel and the growth of tourism
  • International investments in the maritime industries
  • The relationships among port cities seen as nodes of a global network where

    dimensions and scope change over time

    The organizers expect to receive proposals related to some of the suggestions outlined above. But consideration will also be given to papers covering other aspects of the broader conference title.

    In the event of a business history topic without ties to the sea or the firm, consideration will be given, provided that the proposal demonstrates originality and that this forum could be a useful place for further reflection.

    We also invite other formats, such as panels and roundtables, poster sessions for Ph.D. students, workshops aiming to start collaborative projects, and “toolkit sessions”. Proposals should be directed to the paper committee as well.

    Requirements for proposals

    The submission system consists of a template that specifically asks for

    (1) Author information: affiliation, short CV, authored publications related to the paper proposal

    (2) An abstract of no more than 800 words

    (3) Additional information important to the program committee: clear statement of the research question (not more than 150 words), brief information on the theoretical/conceptual framework used, major research areas to which the paper relates

    (4) Joint papers need a responsible applicant who will be at the conference if the proposal is accepted.

    Please have this information ready to enter into the submission system via copy and paste.

    Requirements for panel proposals and roundtables

    The criteria for single paper proposals also apply to session and roundtables proposals. There is, however, a specific template for session proposals.


Sessions can be ninety minutes long (usually three papers) or two hours in order to accommodate more papers. A successful panel/roundtable leaves significant time for the audience to raise questions, to comment and to generally discuss the panel’s theme.

A session proposal should not be made up of participants exclusively from one country. The program committee retains the right to integrate papers into sessions as they see fit.

Please note that paper, session/panel proposals must be submitted via the congress website (use this link to upload proposals). See the Conference Website ( for further details.

The deadline is Monday, January 15, 2018.

If you have any questions please contact Veronica Binda or Roberto Giulianelli at:

CfP: SI in Management Learning

Call for Papers: Anniversary Special Issue of Management Learning

Celebrating 50 years of Management Learning: Historical reflections at the intersection of the past and future

Deadline for submissions: June 01, 2018

Guest Editors:
Gabrielle Durepos, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada
Rafael Alcadipani, FGV – EAESP, Brazil
Mairi Maclean, University of Bath, UK
Stephen Cummings, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Management Learning marks its 50th anniversary in 2020. Management Learning has a long history of publishing critical, reflexive scholarship on organizational knowledge and learning. This special issue provides a forum to celebrate and build on this history through critical and reflective engagement with the past, present and future of management learning, knowledge and education. Taking a historical approach is all the more pressing given recent and impending crises – geo-political, technological, environmental and humanitarian – since some crises only make sense when seen in the fullness of time (Casson and Casson, 2013). We therefore encourage scholarship that challenges the disciplinary past of management knowledge, learning and education and enables more diverse, innovative futures to be imagined.

For more: