Friday, May 25, 2018

Two Historical Datasets of Interest

  • The Federico-Tena World Trade Historical Database: "The available series of world trade covered mostly the advanced world and were hopelessly outdated as they did not take into account all the research on foreign trade of the last thirty years. In contrast, our data-set uses all the most recent research we are aware of and covers almost all polities (independent countries and colonies) in the world after 1850, with few . . . exceptions. . . . For each polity we estimate series of imports and exports at current and constant prices (in 1913 dollars), both at current and 1913 borders." The data are free to use with attribution; the compilers will continue to update the series.

  • Measuring Worth [from Samuel H. Williamson]: "There are two missions of this site. The first is to make available to the public the highest quality and most reliable historical data on important economic aggregates, with particular emphasis on nominal (current-price) measures, as well as real (constant-price) measures. The data presented here on the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have been created using the highest standards of the fields of economics and history, and they were rigorously refereed by the most distinguished researchers in the fields. The second is to provide carefully designed comparators (using these data) that explain the many issues involved in making value comparisons over time."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

HBS Conference: “Roadblocks to Sustainability”

Harvard Business School is holding a conference on "Understanding and Overcoming the Roadblocks to Sustainability" that will meet on June 14, 2018. The meeting organizers write:
Over the past several decades, a vibrant scholarly community has generated thousands of empirical and conceptual studies on the complex relationship between business and the natural environment. At the same time, many large corporations have created positions of Corporate Sustainability Officer with the goal of achieving steady improvements in their sustainability performance. Despite substantial academic research and management attention, complex ecological challenges continue to grow. This unfortunate disconnect between aspirations and reality has begun to provoke some self-reflection in the business and natural environment literature concerning its impact and relevance. .  . . Recent empirical business history research appears to show that profits and sustainability have been hard to reconcile throughout history. . . . This conference will focus on the roadblocks to sustainability since the 1960s and develop a research agenda for scholars seeking to overcome those roadblocks. In addition to offering a retrospective analysis of where corporate sustainability has fallen short, the conference will explore the incentives, organizational designs, and institutional systems that would allow sustainability to take hold.
The list of speakers and schedule are now available on the conference website, as well as information about lodging and registration. Note that the registration deadline is June 5, 2018.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Preliminary Program: ABH 2018 Meeting

The 2018 Association of Business Historians (ABH) annual conference will be held on June 29-30 at the Open University Business School in Milton Keynes. With a theme of "Pluralistic Perspectives of Business History," the conference "aims to explore the impact of gender, social class, ethnicity, and religion on business success, fraud, funding, financial markets, corporate governance, and corporate social responsibility." The preliminary program is now available.
     For additional information about the conference, please see the meeting website. Note that early registration closes on June 4; online registration will close on June 22.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Over the Counter: Issue No. 40

News of interest from around the web:

The Winter 2018 edition of Financial History, the magazine of the Museum of American Finance, contains articles by Susie Pak on "Where Are They Now? " on the investment firm Blyth & Co., and by Joseph Martin and the late Chris Kobrak on "Evolution of the Canadian Currency and Banking Systems."

The folks at BackStory interviewed Bernard Carlson and Paul Israel about Thomas Edison's reputation.

Jon Kelvey writes in Smithsonian online about "How Advertising Shaped the First Opioid Epidemic."

We're saddened to report the deaths of two well-known members of the business and economic history community. Tony Corley, who died on March 15, 2018, is remembered by Mark Casson; and Frank Lewis, who died on March 14, is memorialized by Ann Carlos, Ian Keay, and Taylor Jaworski on EH.Net. 

The Mapping Early American Elections team has released over eighty maps of elections for Congress’s second decade. This release adds county-level maps of election returns for the Sixth through Tenth Congresses, taking coverage of Congressional elections up through the 1806–1807 elections.

A new online exhibit from the American Antiquarian Society, "The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865," explores the interconnectedness of American news media, in all its formats, with changes in technology, business, politics, society, and community from 1730 to 1865.

Kim Phillips-Fein's book, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, was named as a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History.

A recent issue of the JSTOR Daily, on "Why Americans Used to Hate Hotel Workers," features the research of K. Sandoval-Strausz and Daniel Levinson Wilk.

A Harvard Business Review article by Steve Blank suggests "To Understand the Future of Tesla, Look to the History of GM."

"Black Perspectives," the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), ran a roundtable in March on the book Masterless Men by Keri Leigh Merritt. Of particular interest are two posts, one by Calvin Schermerhorn on "In the Shadows of Slavery's Capitalism," and another,  by Jessica Parr, on "Race, Economics, and the Persistence of Slavery."

On the University Press of Florida blog, authors Mark H. Rose and Roger Biles discuss "The  President as American Consumer-in-Chief," drawing on their work for their edited book, The President and American Capitalism since 1945.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Conference: “New Perspectives on Regulatory History” at HBS

Harvard Business School will host a conference on "New Perspectives on U.S. Regulatory History: Past and Present of Public Utilities and Antitrust Law," to be held June 4-5, 2018. According to the organizers,
This research conference brings together leading historians and legal scholars interested in the history and future of the U.S. regulatory tradition. . . . [The] conference seeks to reinvigorate [Tom] McCraw’s insight that interdisciplinary dialogue is necessary to understand the complexities of modern regulatory policy.
The schedule is available here. Please note that registration must be completed by May 22, 2018. For registration information, as well as details about lodging and travel, please see the conference website. Questions may be directed to

Monday, May 14, 2018

Program Available: 2018 Policy History Conference

Every two years the Journal of Policy History and the Institute for Political History sponsor a conference on policy history. According to the website, "the primary goal behind the conference has been to provide an interdisciplinary forum for presentations and roundtable discussions on policy history topics and recent policy history research." The 2018 conference will be held in Tempe, Arizona, on May 16- 19. The program, available online, features a number of sessions of interest, particularly:
Session 1-A: "Risking the Republic: Federal Policy and Financial Change in the Postwar Era," with Christy Ford Chapin, Sean Vanatta, Peter Conti-Brown, commentary by Mark Rose;
Panel 4-C: "Conservative Challenges to the Great Society," chair and commentator, Elizabeth Tandy Shermer;
Roundtable 3-H: Roundtable Discussion of Laura Phillips Sawyer’s American Fair Trade: Proprietary Capitalism, Corporatism, and the ‘New Competition,’ 1890-1940, with Benjamin Waterhouse, Victoria Saker Woeste, and Joanna Grisinger, chaired by Elizabeth Sanders
Roundtable 4-C: Roundtable Discussion of Edward Balleisen’s Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff, with Cristie Ford, Pamela W. Laird, Ajay Mehrotra, and Robert Horowitz; chaired by Benjamin Waterhouse and commentary by Edward Balleisen
For complete information about the meeting, please see the conference website.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Reminder: Extended Deadline for Business History Special Issue CFP

Business History will publish a special issue on "Bank-Industry versus Stock Market-Industry Relationships: A Business History Approach." The guest editors are José L. García-Ruiz, Complutense University of Madrid, and Michelangelo Vasta, University of Siena. In their call for papers, they state: "It seems clear that much can be learned about the bank-industry and stock market-industry relationships if they are addressed from a Business History perspective, which until now has been almost completely neglected."
     The editors welcome contributions on the history of the bank-industry and stock market-industry relationships, especially if they use interdisciplinary and new methodologies and cross-country comparisons.  Articles should be based on original research and should not be under consideration by other journal. All articles should be submitted via ScholarOne, using the drop-down menu to select submission to the appropriate special issue. The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 31, 2018. A full discussion of the topic and instructions for submission can be found in the call for papers on the journal's website.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reminder: Application Deadline for New “Exchange” Editor Is May 15

The Business History Conference is looking for a new editor for this blog, "The Exchange." For the full announcement, see our earlier post. This is a great opportunity to serve while simultaneously keeping abreast of the business and economic history scholarly world! 
    Applicants should send a cover letter outlining interest in and aptitude for the position together with a CV to Shennette Garrett-Scott, Chair, Electronic Media Oversight Committee, at by May 15, 2018. Questions can be directed either to Shennette at the listed email address or to Andrew Popp, BHC Secretary-Treasurer, at

Monday, May 7, 2018

Spring 2018 Edition: Business Historians in the News

A sample of business historians in the news in recent weeks:
In Growth Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Geoffrey Jones talks about income inequality, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility.

On Xerfi Canal, Eric Godelier of the Ecole Polytechnique can be viewed talking about "The Place of Culture in Management."

In a recent article in the Baltimore Sun on the need for citywide street design, Paige Glotzer of Harvard University is quoted about the research in her forthcoming book on "Building Suburban Power: The Business of Exclusionary Housing Markets"

Robert Wright of Augustana University is quoted in a recent Forbes article on "Is Economics Going Back to the 1800s? Maybe So."

Several business historians have written recently for the "Made by History" series in the Washington Post [behind a paywall for some]:
    Shane Hamilton on "The Great American Supermarket Lie"
    Jason Weixelbaum [recent BHC Colloquium member] on "Why It's Time to Regulate Social Media Companies Like Facebook"
     Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on "The Right to Work Really Means the Right to Work for Less"

Joshua D. Rothman writes about "The Curious Origins of the Dollar Sign" for We're History.

The National History Center recently addressed concerns about robots and jobs at a congressional briefing on automation and the workforce, presented by Amy Bix (Iowa State University), Jonathan C. Coopersmith (Texas A&M University), and Louis Hyman (Cornell University); the session is detailed in the AHA's blog.

For Nieman Lab, Heidi Tworek of the University of British Columbia and John Maxwell Hamilton of Louisiana State University discuss "Why the Golden Age of Newspapers Was the Exception Not the Rule."

Auburn University's Perspectives looks at Xaq Frohlich's class on "Food and Power," focusing on his research interests in the history of food regulation and food science and technology. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Digital Resource: Images of Early America and Westward Expansion from the Newberry

An announcement from the Newberry Library in Chicago:
Now anyone with an Internet connection can access over 200,000 high-resolution images from a range of primary sources—maps, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, photographs, and artwork—documenting Europeans’ evolving conception of the Americas, early contact between colonial forces and Indigenous peoples, the expanding boundaries of the United States, and the imaginary construction of “the West.” These images come from the Edward E. Ayer Collection, one of the strongest collections regarding American Indian history and culture in the world; and the Everett D. Graff Collection, a substantial aggregation of Western Americana that ranks among the most extensive in the country.
Of special interest to business historians is the large number of business directories, trade cards, receipts, account books, and merchant advertisements one can find among the items in the Graff Collection. The Ayer Collection holds fascinating items such as voyageur contracts, Indian deeds, ledgers, promissory notes, and fur trade company documents.