BizHisCol Webinar – Twentieth-Century Chinese business history (double feature)

Presenters: Mengxing Yu (Kyoto University) and Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)

Chair: Adam Nix (De Montfort University)

11/05/2021 at 14.00-15:30 UK | Register here

Paper 1: The evolution of pulp and paper firms: The example of coastal areas in China since 1978

Mengxing Yu (Kyoto University)

The past half century witnessed the rapid increase of the Chinese share in the world paper production from 3.1% in 1977 to 26.4% in 2016, and thus China became the largest paper producer. This study examines the history of various types of the Chinese paper firms, and addresses how they have developed and influenced other domestic industries. This study focuses on the changes of Chinese paper firms since 1978, and compares its developing model with Japan, the Nordics and Britain. The creativity of entrepreneurship to the transformation of Chinese paper firms will also be studied. In particular, special attention will be paid to the private entrepreneurs that started their business since the 1990s, which was the boom period of the Chinese paper industry. In doing so, this study argues that the changes of the paper firms in China have been tightly in pace with Chinese economic development since 1978. In addition, this study reveals how a Chinese industry has maximized the limited resources and developed from a relatively low industrialized level to the world largest producer and consumer.

Paper 2: The Business of Electrification – Hu Xiyuan, Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd. and the Birth of the Chinese Electric Lamp Industry, 1921–1937

Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)

Electric light was first introduced into China in the 1870s. However, until the 1920s it were foreign companies and products that dominated the Chinese market for electric lamps. Only during the 1920s and 30s – the years before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 – did the Chinese electric lamp industry start to flourish and manage to compete with the established foreign firms and goods. This paper uses the case study of Chinese entrepreneur Hu Xiyuan and his Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd., which pioneered early Chinese electric lamp manufacturing, to explore the hitherto understudied emergence of the indigenous electric lamp manufacturing industry in China during the 1920s and 1930s and its attempts of competing with foreign imports and manufacturers in China. In particular, this paper will focus on two aspects of the development of Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd. First, it will discuss how Hu emulated foreign-produced light bulb technology and adapted foreign technological knowledge to the Chinese market managed to build up a successful light bulb manufacturing business that could produce light bulbs on an industrial scale. Second, this paper will show how Hu intentionally marketed his products as national Chinese (as opposed to foreign) commodities to gain an advantage against his foreign competitors, including the international Phoebus light bulb cartel that tried to dominate the global production and sale of light bulbs at the time.

BizHisCol Webinar – How was the Manila trade financed?

An alternative institutional approach to long-distance trade finance, 1668-1828

27/04/2021 17.00 UK (NB – Time rescheduled, previously 16.00 UK)

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Presenter: Juan José Rivas Moreno (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Discussant: Fernando Arteaga González (University of Pennsylvania)
Chair: Manuel A. Bautista-González (Columbia University in the City of New York)

This paper seeks to explain the financial model of the Pacific silver trade that linked Spanish America and Asia through Manila during the Early Modern period, focusing specially on the era between 1668 and 1828.This research therefore seeks to understand the business and financial model of the Manila trade, its resilience in time as well as its successful monopolisation of the Pacific route (the most direct route for the exchange of silver pesos for Asian manufactures) in the context of corporate, business, and institutional history. It does so by reconstructing and analysing for the first time the universe of the financial markets in Manila, which rested on a combination of financial and risk-mitigating instruments such as sea loans, investment vehicles like legacy funds grouped under the administration of confraternities and tertiary orders, and a legal framework that combined differing jurisdictions including Canon, Civil, and consuetudinary law. It explores the interaction of all this elements in the context of a trade defined by lack of substitutes, high risks, and oligopsonic structures in order to explain the rationale behind the instruments and organisations used.It crucially uses for the first time a database of over 525 sea loans from the notarial protocols of Manila (NAP) as well as the only surviving year-on-year account books of 23 legacy funds that invested in the Manila trade (APSR). The result is an alternative business model that relied on horizontal specialisation rather than vertical integration, in which Manila played a specialised role as a risk manager and financier of the trade, which allowed it to remain competitive and to fend-off encroachment attempts from interlopers and the East India companies without adopting a corporate form. 

BizHizCol Webinar: Textiles in business history (double feature)

13/04/2021 16.00 UK

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Presenters: Muwei Chen (Beijing Foreign Studies University) and Alka Raman  (London School of Economics)
Chair: Ashton Merck (Duke University)

A Collective Approach to Pollution Treatment of small firms led by Trade Association: the Kyoto black dyeing industry in the 1970s

Muwei Chen (Beijing Foreign Studies University)

The problem of pollution is a typical example of an external diseconomy that takes an important position in the relationship between the environment and private firms. Private firms incline to prioritize economic profit over environmental protection, thus, relying on firms’ initiatives to treat pollution seems impracticable. Especially for small firms, which are financially and technically less capable.

Japan has encouraged small and medium sized firms to deal with pollution collectively since the 1970s, since SMEs had generated a large amount of pollution. However, previous studies have rarely uncovered how the collective approach had been undertaken. What kind of barriers did the small firms meet? How did they solve them? Why did the small firms choose one solution over another?

This study aims to address these gaps by exploring how small firms collectively dealt with pollution under the leadership of trade associations. This study examines the case of a local industry specializing in black dyeing in Kyoto and its surrounding areas. The group of small dyeing firms, mostly with an average of 10 employees, have successfully solved their wastewater pollution in a decade. This is largely attributable to the collective attempts initiated by the Kyoto Kurozome Industrial Cooperative Association.

This case study reflected the situation of small firms in the 1970s when social and governmental pressure on pollution treatment was increasing drastically while legislation and regulations on pollution were still in formation. The misalignment between private and public interests was affected by the change of regulation, recognition, and technological availability. As a result, the small firms were gradually grouped into the leaders of the association, the pioneers, the late movers, and the outsiders. The trade association had to uniform the different interests of the small firms in order to achieve the collective approach to pollution treatment.

On the other hand, this case study also has its specialties that may further our understanding of the possibilities and restrictions of this trade association-led collective approach. These may include the supportive Kyoto prefectural government, the interdependence of stakeholders on the supply chain due to the social division of labor, and the industrial crises emerged since 1976.

The conclusions are as follows. First, the collective attempts compensated for the risk that the relatively loose regulation environment for SMEs could lead to reduced motivation to treat pollution. Second, the association constructed a regulative and normative environment to facilitate peer supervision based on horizontal inter-firm relationship. Third, the negotiation included diverse stakeholders, nevertheless, the failure to adopt the new dyeing method was attributed to the influence from the supply chain that preferred economic profit in the short run.

From imitation to industrialisation: Evolution of cloth quality in the British cotton industry, 1740-1820

Alka Raman (London School of Economics)

The introduction of Indian printed and painted cotton textiles into Britain in the late seventeenth century led to immediate imitations of these goods by British manufacturers. Did the process of imitation of these foreign benchmark products lead to the adoption of a specific trajectory of technological growth within the British cotton industry? This paper contributes to a topic central to interpretations of British industrialisation, pathways to technological change, and eventually innovations, using qualitative empirical material analysis. It highlights material knowledge transfer in the absence of codified means of knowledge exchange and identifies imitation as a key channel for innovation and technological change. Textual evidence from contemporary entrepreneurs, merchants, manufacturers as well as observers of the British cotton industry indicates that manufacturers in the early British cotton industry were concerned about cloth quality vis-à-vis Indian cottons and that there was a shift towards improvements in cloth quality, especially for the making of the cotton warp yarn. These texts suggest the hypothesis that there was a shift towards finer cotton textiles in Britain, via attempts to make the cotton warp yarn match Indian quality. With a novel dataset of surviving British and Indian textiles of the period, the paper puts this hypothesis to test and concludes that between 1746 and 1850, there was an increase in the quality of British cottons leading to a convergence with the quality of handmade Indian cottons. Extant literature mentions learning from pre-existing products but what this learning entailed and whether imitation of benchmark products stimulated technological innovations are questions that have remained unexplored. While British industrialisation has been studied from a variety of viewpoints, the impact of pre-existing goods, whose replication by machinery effectively constitutes the shift towards industrialisation, is a perspective previously ignored. This paper shows how competitive ambition amongst British manufactures to produce goods that rivalled Indian cottons steered the trajectory of mechanical innovations in the British cotton industry. Using empirical microscopic analysis of the historical material textile sources, I demonstrate that technological change in the British cotton industry was guided by the quest to match the cloth quality of handmade Indian cottons.

BizHisCol Webinar: Freedom from the New World: The invention of beet sugar

06/04/2021 16.00 UK

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Presenter: David Singerman (University of Virginia)
Chair: Manuel A. Bautista-González (Columbia University in the City of New York)

In contrast to the centuries-deep agricultural origins of sugarcane, the idea of sugar from beets and other vegetables emerged of German laboratory scientists around 1800. The economic history of sugar in the nineteenth century is generally told as a war between these two industries, culminating in the near-bankruptcy of some European states that subsidized their domestic beet producers. In this chapter, I show that the idea of beet sugar was not a scientific discovery but rather a radical invention. For Enlightenment philosophes, practical chemists, merchants, and producers, sugar was something that came from the cane. Not until the middle of the century did new forces within chemistry itself, allied to certain political and economic agendas, persuade publics that the crystals extracted from beets were not just a substitute for cane sugar but in fact the same substance.

BizHisCol Webinar: Benefits offered by historical explanation to statistical studies in strategic management

23/03/2021 16.00 UK

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Presenters: Sandeep Pillai (Bocconi University), Brent Goldfarb, and David Kirsch (University of Maryland)
Chair: Adam Nix (De Montfort University)

Abstract:

We contribute the literature on research methodologies in strategy research (CITE) and argue that historical explanation is essential to improve the internal validity, external validity, and objectivity of statistical reasoning. To enhance internal validity, tools used by historians offer statistical reasoning explanatory virtues, visibility across time and levels of analyses, the ability to identify mechanisms, and the ability to test that a proposed hypothesis is invariant. Explanatory practices followed by historians improved external validity because it provides readers with embedded generalizations from logically rigorous analytic narratives and contextualized thick descriptions that the readers can then use to determine whether the explanations are generalizable to contexts that are of interest to the readers. Further, to improve objectivity, historical explanation complements statistical reasoning through source criticism and hermeneutic interpretation, which enables the evaluation of inferences from the perspective of the authors of the records.

BHC Roundtable: Making Sense of Digital Sources

Thursday 11th, March @ 10:00-11:00 (EST)/15:00-16:00 (GMT)

Organizers: 
Prof Stephanie Decker, University Of Bristol
Prof David Kirsch, University Of Maryland
Dr Santhilata Kuppili Venkata, The National Archives
Dr Adam Nix, De Montfort University

Speakers:
Dr Gavin Benke, Boston University
Dr Jessica Ogden, University of Bristol
Dr Tim Hannigan, University of Alberta
Prof Douglas Oard, University of Maryland

BHC’s virtual meeting starts tomorrow and, among the many interesting sessions, the Contextualizing Email Achieves team will be hosting an inter-disciplinary roundtable on digital sources. The session requires no prior experience of digital methods or digital sources and will be of particular interest to anyone researching contemporary historical periods or those keen to know more about working with digital traces of the past.

Here’s the full abstract:

The more business and organisational historians focus on the events of the late twentieth century and beyond, the more they are finding traces of the past that were created digitally. Despite the increasing relevance of emails, webpages and other born-digital material, there has been little reflection on how scholars should deal with them methodologically.

The goal of the roundtable is to explore the challenges that arise at the intersection of different disciplines as they attempt to make sense of digital sources. It brings together scholars from different disciplines who have explored the many ways in which digital sources can be used and are being used. Several are early career researchers (ECRs) themselves (Drs Hannigan, Nix, Ogden) and the topic is of particular relevance to ECRs as they are perhaps more likely to engage with new types of sources and new methods in order to make their mark as scholars.

The underlying rationale is as follows: Sources and methods for business historians have expanded in recent years as more and increasingly heterogeneous artefacts are being generated. On the one hand, these developments have led to a flowering of new types of inputs for historians writing about business such as digitized newspapers and remotely accessible archival collections. Combined with complex search tools that allow scholars to filter ever larger and more diverse sets of historical materials, business historians are now able to make new and different kinds of knowledge claims.

However, taking advantage of these opportunities can require research tools which are outside the skill set of any single researcher, historian or otherwise. Therefore, business historians may need to look outside the boundaries of the field for productive, knowledge-generating partnerships. Hence we have focused on bringing an interdisciplinary group of scholars together, which is of particular relevance to ECRs as research trends and funders increasingly focus on the ability to engage in interdisciplinary conversations.

For more details and to see the rest of BHC’s exciting sessions, view the full programme here.

BizHisCol Webinar: Gender differential and financial inclusion in Spain: Female shareholders of Banco Hispano Americano (1922-1935)

09/03/2021 16.00 UK

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Presenters: Susana Martínez-Rodríguez and Carmen María Hernández-Nicolás (University of Murcia)
Chair: Beatriz Rodríguez-Satizabal (Universidad del Pacífico/GHE UniAndes)

Within the context of financial modernization in Spain, the analysis of the female shareholders of Banco Hispano Americano (BHA hereafter) aims to contribute to a new narrative about financial inclusion and gender differential from a historical perspective. The bank first appeared as a modern corporation in 1900. The BHA was a modern national bank, spread all over the country, with an urban profile that attacked a large spectrum of shareholders, and surprisingly female shareholders. There is no previous literature in Spain that recollects on female shareholders. Therefore this study aims to make a first attempt to the literature on this prolific topic in Spain.

BizHisCol Webinar – Advertising, business, and neoliberalism under Pinochet in Chile

Presenters: Pablo Pryluka (Princeton University)
Chair: Ashton Merck (Duke University)

02/03/2021 16.00 UK

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In July of 1974, the J. Walter Thompson advertising company signed a contract with the Chilean Junta in order to organize a global campaign to improve the international image of the dictatorship. Around two months later the agreement was made public, first in the United States and then around the world. The reaction was immediate—over the next few days, European and American JWT managers began to complain about the agreement. By the end of September, 1974, it was clear that the collaboration would have to be severed, which finally happened in October. The existence of such an agreement had some impact at the time, but afterwards remained almost unnoticed. So far, two approaches have hegemonized the history of the so-called neoliberal turn of the 1970s and 1980s. On the one hand, approaches coming from political economy and other social sciences underlined the impact of structural reforms on economic growth and inequality. On the other hand, the new histories of neoliberalism delved into the intellectual debates that preceded and supported the new economic policies, interested in tracing how these ideas traveled from the pen of Friedrich Hayek to global institutions and policymakers. This paper takes a different approach by returning a forgotten actor to the story: private companies. As the case of the J. Walter Thompson and its connection with the Chilean Military Junta illustrates, this methodological shift challenges the current narratives about the transformations of the 1970s and 1980s.

Reminder! BizHisCol Webinar – Manuel Bautista with Boatloads of Mexican Silver

Boatloads of Mexican Silver. The Political Economy of Specie Imports in New Orleans, 1839-1861

Date/Time: 16/02/2021 @ 16.00hrs UK
Presenter: Manuel Bautista (Columbia University)
Register here.

This paper reconstructs the monetary geography of antebellum New Orleans from the economic crisis of 1839 to the US. Navy’s blockade of the port in 1861 through a quantitative and geographic examination of specie imports (gold and silver coins) flowing into the port. It also sheds light into the commercial and financial actors, networks, and circuits involved in the intermediation of specie in New Orleans before the U.S. Civil War. Drawing on a novel dataset assembled from the semi-weekly economic newspaper New Orleans Price-Current (the first of its kind in the scholarly literature on specie in the early U.S. economy), the paper explores the amounts, the provenance, the types of vessels for maritime transportation, and the top-tier consignees of specie imports flowing into antebellum New Orleans. Specie (primarily Mexican silver dollars) helped accommodate the Crescent City’s cross-border flows of goods and capital, mirroring its commercial and financial ties with the rest of the world. New Orleans was central for the antebellum U.S. specie market and money supply, as it imported vast specie flows (primarily Mexican silver dollars) from ports such as Brazos Santiago (Texas), Veracruz, Tampico (both in Mexico), and Havana (Cuba). Specie consignees relied on high-powered money flows to fund their business ventures as commission merchants, commodity factors, real estate investors, and agents of European and U.S. Northern merchant banking houses.

This is a webinar is jointly hosted by the Business History Collective Global and Iberoamérica.

CfP for the Business History Collective ‘Spring Webinar Series’

Deadline for submissions: Wednesday, 9th December

Following a highly successful summer webinar series, we are pleased to invite applications to contribute towards our spring webinar series, February – May 2021.

These events are primarily intended as a platform to share and discuss ongoing research, including working papers, dissertation chapters, and manuscripts under review.

Applications are not limited to a particular theme or set of topics; however, priority will be given to proposals of particular novelty, use of qualitative approaches, and historical periods preceding 1800 or subsequent to 1950.

We are also particularly interested in hearing from early career researchers, researchers from minority backgrounds (e.g., women, LGBTQ+, ethnic and racial minorities, underrepresented backgrounds/populations, etc.), as well as research and researchers located outside of Europe, North America, China and Japan.

Please write to the spring organizers, Ashton Merck (awb27@duke.edu) and Adam Nix (adam.nix@dmu.ac.uk), with any questions about the webinar series.

If you want to join as a presenter click here.

If you want to join as discussant or member of the audience click here