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The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-century France and England

Author(s):Pedley, Mary Sponberg
Reviewer(s):Danforth, Susan

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

Mary Sponberg Pedley, The Commerce of Cartography: Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-century France and England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. xvii + 435 pp. $40 (cloth), ISBN: 0-226-65341-2.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Susan Danforth, John Carter Brown Library.

In October, 2001, I attended the Fourteenth Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lecture in the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library in Chicago. That year the theme was “A Taste for Maps: Commerce and Cartography in Early Modern Europe,” and the keynote and primary speaker was Mary Pedley, who over the course of two days gave three well-crafted lectures on the effect of economic factors on eighteenth-century map production, issues that had not been tackled very often in writings in the history of cartography. In the 1970s the often politically edgy work of Brian Harley on issues of power and authority in the design, publication, and distribution of maps began to shift many scholars’ attention from more traditional topics in the field — i.e., mankind’s chronological “progression” from geographically benighted to scientifically enlightened — towards an approach that focused more on subjective issues of map production, offering potential for the interdisciplinary investigation that had become popular in academe. But there really hadn’t been much work done on certain foundation issues. Simply put, how could one offer a fully developed theory of why maps were or were not produced, why they looked the way they did, without an appreciation of the many practical considerations that affected production and distribution, such as methods of compilation, cost of materials like copper plates and paper and, of course, the cost of labor and transportation? Certainly these practical issues had at least as much impact on what was or was not produced as issues of imperial design and power. Obviously, what was needed was someone of ability to take the time to explore available archival resources and knit the myriad pieces of information together to provide a picture of the day-to-day world of the eighteenth-century map. Fortunately, Mary Pedley has done just that with The Commerce of Cartography. Making and Marketing Maps in Eighteenth-century France and England, a masterful overview of the nuts and bolts of the London and Paris map trade.

Pedley begins with a paragraph explaining eighteenth-century French and English monetary units. Without this background information it is certain that a large percentage of her audience (myself, in particular) would not be able to appreciate the nuanced economic comparisons she draws. The main body of the book that follows examines the many elements that came together to produce and market a map. The book concludes with six appendices that provide information about the expenses of map production in France, England and North America respectively — the costs of surveying, purchasing materials such as copper and paper, and paying the engravers and artists. Also presented are map and print prices in France and England, and wages by occupation and date. These appendices contain a wealth of information that can be profitably mined by scholars to shed light on any number of questions

Part one, “Making Maps,” explores the complexities of map production step-by-step, contrasting situations in England and France that often determined which maps were produced and how they looked. For instance, in France a mapmaker was perceived as a professional, often with an academic background, while in England cartography was seen as more of a craft or trade with many of its practitioners self-taught. Among other things, Pedley discusses such issues as the cost of surveys, why some maps were printed while others remained in manuscript, and how long it took to produce an engraved map.

Part two, “Selling Maps,” addresses financial issues connected with mapmaking and some of the problems of plagiarism, once again pointing out differences between France and England. In terms of financing, lack of government support in England led map publishers to develop joint partnerships and other solutions to raise capital, in contrast with the situation in France, where provincial governments typically provided sponsorship. Although a climate for copyright had begun to develop in England from the first such Act of 1709 (which protected booksellers, not authors), there was no such government protection in France.

Part three, “Evaluating Maps,” may burst some bubbles. As a map curator, I recall students and researchers over the years who felt certain that as soon as a new place was “discovered,” as soon as a significant event was reported, it would certainly appear on a map, because it made sense that the “public” would demand and support the publication of scientifically accurate, up-to-date maps. So it is interesting to read that the French cartographer Guillaume Delisle was praised by his contemporaries for adding new information to his maps slowly, so as not to shock his public. Other eighteenth-century commentators were happy to see that mapmakers left outdated information on maps “just in case.” Perhaps the island in the middle of the Pacific that hadn’t been seen in fifty years was there after all. What mapmaker would want to be responsible for a shipwreck? “In the end,” Pedley says, “what sold maps was price. A copy or counterfeit was as good as the real thing to the consumer.” That said, she also points out that throughout the eighteenth century mapmakers grappled with ways to improve the quality of cartography, focusing on the need for improved training, increased government support, and the enforcement of laws regarding privileges and copyright, topics that Pedly addresses in this final section of the book.

The Commerce of Cartography deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf of every cartographic specialist, for it can be used as a ready reference to provide answers to questions that are asked again and again — How many maps could be pulled from a copper plate? How long did it take to engrave a map? How much did it cost? — information about practical issues of mapmaking that is often difficult to come by. But this book should also be read and used by everyone who is considering integrating cartographic themes into their research in any discipline. Pedley states that her book is “less concerned with the power structures inherent in the map trade than in what was economically possible and economically profitable for map producers.” It could be suggested that a fuller understanding of those issues would do much to enrich future scholarship.

Susan Danforth is Assistant Librarian and Curator of Maps at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island.

Subject(s):Transport and Distribution, Energy, and Other Services
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):18th Century

London and Paris as International Financial Centres in the Twentieth Century

Author(s):Cassis, Youssef
Bussière, Éric
Reviewer(s):Wilkins, Mira

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

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Youssef Cassis and ?ric Bussi?re, editors, London and Paris as International Financial Centres in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. xii + 367 pp. $125 (hardcover), ISBN: 0-19-926949-1.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Mira Wilkins, Department of Economics, Florida International University

This book has a truly exciting set of fifteen chapters (sixteen contributors). Youssef Cassis starts off with a brief comparison between London and Paris as international financial centers in the twentieth century. After his introduction, there are four parts (one general and three chronological), with alternate chapters on London and Paris. Part I has the first pair: Ranald Michie and Alain Plessis deal respectively with London and Paris in a “long-term perspective, 1890-2000.” In a splendid essay, Michie insists that London as a financial center took shape as an addition to (not a substitute for) its role as a commercial center. London’s port, its insurers, its activities in the distribution of minerals and metals were complementary to its central position in international finance. Trade finance, short and long-term investments, and the role of stock markets are deftly handled by Michie, who emphasizes the dynamics of the City with its changing and evolving characteristics. World War I proved a “major blow” to London as an international center, but it recouped. With nuances, Michie covers the inter-war and World War II ups and downs in London’s position. World War II was another watershed. With the nationalization of the Bank of England in 1945, government interventions in financial matters became the norm. Yet, throughout, London remained cosmopolitan, in time reviving its position as a major international financial center. In December 1999 the governor of the Bank of England would call London the world’s predominant international financial center. This was perhaps an exaggeration, underestimating New York. Nonetheless, the rebirth of the City at the end of the twentieth century was remarkable. Michie explains why.

Plessis’s eleven pages on Paris do not offer as comprehensive an overview as Michie’s but then Paris was not London. Plessis shows the strengths of Paris as a financial center in the decades before World War I, its “withdrawal 1914-1926” (including the resales of the best securities abroad and the collapse of loans to Russia and the Ottoman Empire, with France moving from creditor to debtor nation in these years). Plessis’s next sub-headings are “The Great Hope, 1918-1930” (with the stabilized franc and solid current account surpluses), “An Enduring Eclipse, 1931-1958” (with the accumulation of negative impacts on Paris as a financial center), and finally “Toward a New International Role for Paris as a Financial Centre” (beginning with France’s participation in the European common market and the re-establishing of external convertibility of the currency in 1958, and then, too rapidly, he rushes through the next two decades, not really bringing the story to 2000, as Michie had).

Part II is on 1890-1914. Here the first pair of British-French chapters is not a symmetrical coupling (nor are the subsequent pairs). Each contribution fills gaps in the overviews. Michie’s summary devoted little attention to empire, to imperialism, in defining London’s role as an international financial center. Niall Ferguson’s controversial, and as is his practice highly stimulating, presentation re-looks at the older familiar literature on capitalism and imperialism (on sinister financial interests) and reviews the range of re-considerations of this equation from the 1960s onward. Ferguson brings back to the table the significance of formal empire in London’s place as a financial center. Taking on Michael Bordo and other recent economic historians, Ferguson claims British rule provided more than the good “housekeeping guarantees” of the gold standard. Ferguson sees empire as highly germane to understanding the City before World War I. Many historians have been appalled by Ferguson’s conservatism, his politically incorrect willingness to maintain that imperialism may not have been such a bad thing after all. The ideological blinders of these critics should not stop them from taking Ferguson’s arguments seriously. Even if one does not share all his arguments, he is convincing as he shows that access to London capital markets for those countries within the empire was lower cost and easier than for most countries outside the formal empire. Yet Ferguson never considers the largest single recipient of British capital in this era, the United States. This omission provides, perhaps, a flaw in Ferguson’s argument, but some may argue far from a fatal one.

The French contribution to this pair is by Marc Flandreau and Fran?ois Gallice; it shifts the tone and orientation. In this important chapter, the authors look at short-term international capital movements, 1885-1913, using data from the records of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas). Their contribution reveals the great value of using bank (and more generally) business records. This essay is as much about London as about Paris as an international financial center. Their study offers splendid new data and insights into the characteristics of short-term capital movements; it expands horizons.

The next twin covers banks and international finance, 1890-1914. Cassis supplies a snapshot of the specialized, fragmented London banking institutions along with the financial markets in which they participated and competed. Samir Saul’s approach differs, focusing on alliances between banks within syndicates, seeking to establish the managers and participants in underwriting and issue consortia. His data base consists of 311 issues of foreign governments and companies, as found in Cr?dit Lyonnais’s records, supplemented by other information.

Part III, entitled “From Global Reach to Regional Withdrawal, 1914-1958,” has offerings from P.L. Cottrell on London and Hubert Bonin on Paris banking and finance. Part IV on the “Road to Globalization, 1958-1980,” contains two sets of papers. Catherine Schenk offers keen insights into the policy environment of international banking in the City, while Olivier Feirtag tells of the “international opening up” of the Paris Bourse. The second pair in Part IV comprises contributions from Mae Baker and Michael Collins on “London as an International Banking Centre” and ?ric Bussi?re on “French Banks and the Eurobonds Issue Market during the 1960s.” And, then, completing the chronology (and the volume), in the final part, Part V, there is a very neat study of the last twenty years of the twentieth century by Richard Roberts, who playfully asks of London: “Global Powerhouse or Wimbledon EC2?” — while Andr? Straus speculates on the future of the Paris market as an international financial center from the perspective of European integration.

I missed a chapter on the interaction between London and Paris: how often were issues listed on both exchanges? How much arbitrage was there between the centers? How frequently were issues denominated in both pounds and francs? How often did Frenchmen go through London in their international transactions? To what extent did British and French banks have cross connections? We learn of French banks with outlets in London, but what about vice versa? It would be useful to think about the Lazards, Rothschilds, and Morgans in the context of London and Paris as international financial centers. There is so much to consider vis-a-vis interactions. For example, how did the two centers interact in the Euro dollar market? What did British entry into the European community do to the relationships between London and Paris as international financial centers? Plessis (to a limited extent) and Flandreau and Gallice do discuss associations between the French and British central banks, but neither contribution extends the discussion beyond 1914. How did the two central banks interact during the entire twentieth century?

While this book tells a tale of two cities, there is a third one that hovers in the background: New York. A criticism of this book is not that New York is absent in the presented story (it is there, albeit not in a systematic manner), but there seems to be a lack of awareness by most of the authors of the relevant U.S. literature (for example on British and French participation in the Eurobond markets).

These few reservations should not turn the reader from the high value of this book. This is a well-integrated volume that should be in the library of every economic historian who deals with international banking and finance in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. I read it with great absorption and delight.

Mira Wilkins is professor of economics at Florida International University. Her most recent book is The History of Foreign Investment in the United States, 1914-1945 (Harvard University Press, 2004). It is the second volume in her three volume history of foreign investment in the United States (the first was published in 1989); the third, which will carry the story from 1945 to present, is in progress. Wilkins covers foreign direct investment and, also, the entire range of other long-term foreign investments in the United States.

Subject(s):Financial Markets, Financial Institutions, and Monetary History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939

Author(s):Karlinsky, Nahum
Reviewer(s):Rhode, Paul

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

Douglas Cazaux Sackman, Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005. xv + 386 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 0-520-23886-9.

Nahum Karlinsky, California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939 (translated from Hebrew by Naftali Greenwood). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. xiv + 270 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 0-7914-6527-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Paul Rhode, Department of Economics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In the summer of 1927, Frank Adams, a Professor of Irrigation at the University of California, joined a tour-group studying the agriculture of Palestine. One event receiving special note “was a California luncheon tendered the members of the Commission at the home of one of the settlers in the colony of Benjamin. The hosts were all former students of the University of California College of Agriculture … or those who have had some agricultural training and experience on California farms or … agricultural enterprises.”[1] This scientific inter-exchange lies at the intersection of these two valuable recent books exploring the growth of the citrus production in two distant, but environmentally similar lands.

Employing a cultural history approach, Sackman chronicles the rise of the California orange industry between 1870 and 1950. By his account, powerful regional boosters in southern California cultivated, or rather manufactured, an advertising image of a sunny “Garden of Eden” to better market their commodities and hide their exploitation of immigrant workers and their increasingly chemical-dependent production techniques. Across its first four chapters, Orange Empire sketches the founding myths of the local industry, covering the introduction of the Washington navel orange at the Tibbets farmstead, the conquest of blue mold by USDA pomologist G. Harold Powell, and the establishment of cooperative state-federal citrus research system.

But the heart of the work is the analysis of citrus marketing, especially of Sunkist’s advertising efforts, in Chapter 3, which bears the telling title “Pulp Fiction.” Sackman sees the Sunkist co-operative (p. 12) as the “driving force behind the rise of the Orange Empire.” Early attempts to promote California citrus appear lame, even a little bizarre. He observes that the state’s exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 displayed a model of the Liberty Bell made from oranges. The California Fruit Growers Exchange, formed in the same year, developed a more effective campaign of “scientific salesmanship” of oranges under the Sunkist label. Beginning with a 1907 promotional drive in Iowa using catch phrase “Oranges for Health-California for Wealth,” the cooperative became a leading national advertiser by the early 1920s. Among the bold claims in its magazine copy was that citrus was a good source of the newly-discovered Vitamin C — a claim that Sackman suspiciously notes was based on nutrition research partially funded by Sunkist. A sense of the tenor of the argument is offered on p. 115: “By using the legitimating stories of medical science and playing cultural fears of disease, Sunkist configured nature’s oranges as a vital ingredient for the health and growth of the nation.” Similar statements abound. The operation of advertising is indeed mysterious. Yet are tastes holding that fresh oranges are beautiful, delicious, and healthy (compared with other snacks) merely the product of Sunkist brain-washing? Despite his immersion in post-modern rhetoric, even the author does really appear to believe so (see p. xi). Maybe, sometimes, an orange is just an orange. And delicious at that.

Karlinsky adopts an approach more familiar to economic historians, one embracing the evaluation of evidence regarding production costs, export markets, technological choice, and the difficulties of cartelization. Like Sackman, he also emphasizes the play of ideology, specifically of conflicting visions within the Zionist movement, in shaping the development of the Jewish citrus industry in Palestine over the period from 1890 to 1939. One core ideological issue was whether the new sector was to develop along capitalist, private enterprise lines as advocated by pioneering grower, Moshe Smilansky, or along communal lines as advocated by Arthur Ruppin and Zionist socialists. A second, related set of issues involved nationalism and the use of hired labor. Should the citrus colonies rely on Jewish workers exclusively as the Ben-Gurion and Zionist Labor Movement demanded, or could cheaper Arab hired hands be employed? It is fascinating to compare the role and treatment of Mexican workers in the California citrus industry, which Sackman’s fourth chapter places in a new light, with intense debates raging at the same time in the Zionist movement over “the conquest of labor.” Another interesting point of comparison is the ideological position of cooperatives such as Sunkist. Sackman briefly (p. 93) notes that its founders declared themselves free “from commercial exploitation” by middlemen. But this understates how different cooperative members believed their community-based production and marketing organization was from the standard modes of operation of the family farms in the American Midwest. California agriculture offered something new, although not as radically different as some desired.

Karlinsky’s title, California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, is evocative but a little misleading. The Hebrew version of the book was called Citrus Blossoms: Jewish Entrepreneurship in Palestine, 1890-1939. One imagines that in bringing out an English translation (and a good one at that), the editors at the SUNY Press decided a slight repackaging would increase the work’s American market. Karlinsky discusses the “California model” in excellent detail, but only beginning in Chapter 5 on production techniques and in Chapter 9 on marketing. (The phrase “California model” was commonly used in the industry to characterize the agricultural and marketing practices propelling California to global leadership. The term was explicitly adopted by Harold Powell, Jr. when he moved to South Africa with a mission to reproduce California’s success there in the 1910s.)

A major point of the fifth chapter is that while Jewish leaders admired California’s achievement and studied its techniques regarding the use of hired labor, plant spacing, cultivation, irrigation, picking and packing, and joint marketing, the industry in Palestine did not actually adopt many of these practices on a sustained basis. As one example, by the 1920s, California citrus farmers were irrigating with electric-driven horizontal centrifugal pumps and underground cement tubes. Despite expert advice to adopt the “California irrigation method,” Jewish planters persisted in using piston pumps driven by internal combustion engines and in manual irrigating via ditches. As another example, during the “big planting period” of the early 1930s, Jewish farmers abandoned the wide spacing advocated by California’s citrus experts in favor of tighter spacing and earlier maturation. Karlinsky concludes (p. 120) the “attempt to transplant the California model to Palestine … did not turn out well, mainly due to differences in conditions: scarcity of land, availability of cheap unskilled labor, high interest rates, and the wish to obtain a return on equity as quickly as possible.”

The situation was similar in packing and marketing. Attempts in the early 1920s to install an efficient, large-scale, American-style packing plant failed miserably. The machinery was designed for the round American oranges, not for the oval Shamouti variety grown in Palestine. Growers, moreover, were initially suspicious of the drive towards centralization they considered inherent in the modern techniques. Finally, efforts to form marketing cooperatives, including the Padress and the Jaffa Citrus Exchange, went through repeated trials and efforts at reorganization.

Given his interests and sources, Karlinsky is relatively silent on the growth of the Arab side of the Palestinian citrus industry. Chapter 6 provides a short overview of technological innovations in that sector. This brevity is unfortunate because except for the 1926-35 period, when Jewish planting outpaced Arab planting before falling back again, the two sectors were of roughly equal size and shared many of the same patterns of expansion and crisis. The Arab sector predated Jewish efforts and tended to be more traditional. But it also grew rapidly during the Mandate era, using lower production costs to compete in export markets. One of the hypotheses advanced in the text is that capital from Jewish land purchases as well as lessons about modern techniques learned by Arabs working in Jewish orchards pushed the expansion of the Arab sector. As Karlinsky explicitly states, a definite comprehensive study of the Arab half of the Palestinian citrus industry awaits another treatment.

As with the English-language title of Karlinsky’s book, Orange Empire does not fully convey the contents of the Sackman’s work. The scope of this book — which (p. xii) asserts it is the first historical monograph on the California citrus industry written since Carey McWilliams’s 1946 Southern California — is both larger and smaller than is suggested. Orange Empire visits all of the “stations of the cross” in the McWilliams version of California’s agricultural history — the 1913 riot at the Durst ranch in Wheatland, the 1934 EPIC campaign of Upton Sinclair, the strike-breaking activities of the Associated Farmers during the 1930s, the controversies surrounding John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and the story behind Dorothea Lange’s iconic 1936 photograph of the “Migrant mother.” Little matter that Durst produced hops; that Lange’s mother picked peas, not oranges; or that Charles Teague, the book’s key opponent of EPIC and proponent of the Associated Farmers, was a lemon (and walnut) producer. Using care to distinguish between California oranges and lemons is important because the producers of the latter continued to be much more dependent on tariff protection to stave off European competition than producers of the former.

The cost of this broad take on the subject matter is that Sackman pays limited attention to many issues of interest to economic historians. The economic literature has focused on whether the cooperatives such as Sunkist were strictly rent-extracting output-restricting cartels or whether they increased efficiency by lowering costs and solving marketing problems. In either case, how did such organizations solve the “free rider” problem to retain members and market position? The advertising of Sunkist was costly and inevitably some of the increased demand would spill over to non-Sunkist citrus. How were outsiders prevented from reaping what they did not sow? Advertising and branding might also provide informative signals about quality to consumers concerned about purchasing spoilt or dry and pulpy fruit. Sackman’s treatment leaves these issues largely unexplored. Although focused on Palestine, Karlinsky’s work does a far better job discussing the challenges of running a cartel. Sackman’s book is also silent on tariff policy and global trade, providing no indication of the role of protectionism in building California’s Orange Empire. Finally and most unfortunately, the book’s last chapter devotes just a few pages to the Empire’s fall, to its disappearance from Southern California in the post-War period as a result of suburbanization, smog, and the open land of the San Joaquin Valley. That is a story bearing a fresh telling.

Note:

1. Frank Adams, “Agriculture in Palestine,” California Countryman (Jan. 1928), p. 21.

Paul Rhode is the author (with Jos? Morilla Critz and Alan L. Olmstead) of “‘Horn of Plenty’: The Globalization of Mediterranean Horticulture and the Economic Development of Southern Europe, 1880-1930,” Journal of Economic History (1999). Beginning in January 2007, he will join the Department of Economics at the University of Arizona.

Subject(s):Social and Cultural History, including Race, Ethnicity and Gender
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: Pre WWII

Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden

Author(s):Sackman, Douglas Cazaux
Reviewer(s):Rhode, Paul

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

Douglas Cazaux Sackman, Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005. xv + 386 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 0-520-23886-9.

Nahum Karlinsky, California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939 (translated from Hebrew by Naftali Greenwood). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. xiv + 270 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 0-7914-6527-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Paul Rhode, Department of Economics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In the summer of 1927, Frank Adams, a Professor of Irrigation at the University of California, joined a tour-group studying the agriculture of Palestine. One event receiving special note “was a California luncheon tendered the members of the Commission at the home of one of the settlers in the colony of Benjamin. The hosts were all former students of the University of California College of Agriculture … or those who have had some agricultural training and experience on California farms or … agricultural enterprises.”[1] This scientific inter-exchange lies at the intersection of these two valuable recent books exploring the growth of the citrus production in two distant, but environmentally similar lands.

Employing a cultural history approach, Sackman chronicles the rise of the California orange industry between 1870 and 1950. By his account, powerful regional boosters in southern California cultivated, or rather manufactured, an advertising image of a sunny “Garden of Eden” to better market their commodities and hide their exploitation of immigrant workers and their increasingly chemical-dependent production techniques. Across its first four chapters, Orange Empire sketches the founding myths of the local industry, covering the introduction of the Washington navel orange at the Tibbets farmstead, the conquest of blue mold by USDA pomologist G. Harold Powell, and the establishment of cooperative state-federal citrus research system.

But the heart of the work is the analysis of citrus marketing, especially of Sunkist’s advertising efforts, in Chapter 3, which bears the telling title “Pulp Fiction.” Sackman sees the Sunkist co-operative (p. 12) as the “driving force behind the rise of the Orange Empire.” Early attempts to promote California citrus appear lame, even a little bizarre. He observes that the state’s exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 displayed a model of the Liberty Bell made from oranges. The California Fruit Growers Exchange, formed in the same year, developed a more effective campaign of “scientific salesmanship” of oranges under the Sunkist label. Beginning with a 1907 promotional drive in Iowa using catch phrase “Oranges for Health-California for Wealth,” the cooperative became a leading national advertiser by the early 1920s. Among the bold claims in its magazine copy was that citrus was a good source of the newly-discovered Vitamin C — a claim that Sackman suspiciously notes was based on nutrition research partially funded by Sunkist. A sense of the tenor of the argument is offered on p. 115: “By using the legitimating stories of medical science and playing cultural fears of disease, Sunkist configured nature’s oranges as a vital ingredient for the health and growth of the nation.” Similar statements abound. The operation of advertising is indeed mysterious. Yet are tastes holding that fresh oranges are beautiful, delicious, and healthy (compared with other snacks) merely the product of Sunkist brain-washing? Despite his immersion in post-modern rhetoric, even the author does really appear to believe so (see p. xi). Maybe, sometimes, an orange is just an orange. And delicious at that.

Karlinsky adopts an approach more familiar to economic historians, one embracing the evaluation of evidence regarding production costs, export markets, technological choice, and the difficulties of cartelization. Like Sackman, he also emphasizes the play of ideology, specifically of conflicting visions within the Zionist movement, in shaping the development of the Jewish citrus industry in Palestine over the period from 1890 to 1939. One core ideological issue was whether the new sector was to develop along capitalist, private enterprise lines as advocated by pioneering grower, Moshe Smilansky, or along communal lines as advocated by Arthur Ruppin and Zionist socialists. A second, related set of issues involved nationalism and the use of hired labor. Should the citrus colonies rely on Jewish workers exclusively as the Ben-Gurion and Zionist Labor Movement demanded, or could cheaper Arab hired hands be employed? It is fascinating to compare the role and treatment of Mexican workers in the California citrus industry, which Sackman’s fourth chapter places in a new light, with intense debates raging at the same time in the Zionist movement over “the conquest of labor.” Another interesting point of comparison is the ideological position of cooperatives such as Sunkist. Sackman briefly (p. 93) notes that its founders declared themselves free “from commercial exploitation” by middlemen. But this understates how different cooperative members believed their community-based production and marketing organization was from the standard modes of operation of the family farms in the American Midwest. California agriculture offered something new, although not as radically different as some desired.

Karlinsky’s title, California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, is evocative but a little misleading. The Hebrew version of the book was called Citrus Blossoms: Jewish Entrepreneurship in Palestine, 1890-1939. One imagines that in bringing out an English translation (and a good one at that), the editors at the SUNY Press decided a slight repackaging would increase the work’s American market. Karlinsky discusses the “California model” in excellent detail, but only beginning in Chapter 5 on production techniques and in Chapter 9 on marketing. (The phrase “California model” was commonly used in the industry to characterize the agricultural and marketing practices propelling California to global leadership. The term was explicitly adopted by Harold Powell, Jr. when he moved to South Africa with a mission to reproduce California’s success there in the 1910s.)

A major point of the fifth chapter is that while Jewish leaders admired California’s achievement and studied its techniques regarding the use of hired labor, plant spacing, cultivation, irrigation, picking and packing, and joint marketing, the industry in Palestine did not actually adopt many of these practices on a sustained basis. As one example, by the 1920s, California citrus farmers were irrigating with electric-driven horizontal centrifugal pumps and underground cement tubes. Despite expert advice to adopt the “California irrigation method,” Jewish planters persisted in using piston pumps driven by internal combustion engines and in manual irrigating via ditches. As another example, during the “big planting period” of the early 1930s, Jewish farmers abandoned the wide spacing advocated by California’s citrus experts in favor of tighter spacing and earlier maturation. Karlinsky concludes (p. 120) the “attempt to transplant the California model to Palestine … did not turn out well, mainly due to differences in conditions: scarcity of land, availability of cheap unskilled labor, high interest rates, and the wish to obtain a return on equity as quickly as possible.”

The situation was similar in packing and marketing. Attempts in the early 1920s to install an efficient, large-scale, American-style packing plant failed miserably. The machinery was designed for the round American oranges, not for the oval Shamouti variety grown in Palestine. Growers, moreover, were initially suspicious of the drive towards centralization they considered inherent in the modern techniques. Finally, efforts to form marketing cooperatives, including the Padress and the Jaffa Citrus Exchange, went through repeated trials and efforts at reorganization.

Given his interests and sources, Karlinsky is relatively silent on the growth of the Arab side of the Palestinian citrus industry. Chapter 6 provides a short overview of technological innovations in that sector. This brevity is unfortunate because except for the 1926-35 period, when Jewish planting outpaced Arab planting before falling back again, the two sectors were of roughly equal size and shared many of the same patterns of expansion and crisis. The Arab sector predated Jewish efforts and tended to be more traditional. But it also grew rapidly during the Mandate era, using lower production costs to compete in export markets. One of the hypotheses advanced in the text is that capital from Jewish land purchases as well as lessons about modern techniques learned by Arabs working in Jewish orchards pushed the expansion of the Arab sector. As Karlinsky explicitly states, a definite comprehensive study of the Arab half of the Palestinian citrus industry awaits another treatment.

As with the English-language title of Karlinsky’s book, Orange Empire does not fully convey the contents of the Sackman’s work. The scope of this book — which (p. xii) asserts it is the first historical monograph on the California citrus industry written since Carey McWilliams’s 1946 Southern California — is both larger and smaller than is suggested. Orange Empire visits all of the “stations of the cross” in the McWilliams version of California’s agricultural history — the 1913 riot at the Durst ranch in Wheatland, the 1934 EPIC campaign of Upton Sinclair, the strike-breaking activities of the Associated Farmers during the 1930s, the controversies surrounding John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and the story behind Dorothea Lange’s iconic 1936 photograph of the “Migrant mother.” Little matter that Durst produced hops; that Lange’s mother picked peas, not oranges; or that Charles Teague, the book’s key opponent of EPIC and proponent of the Associated Farmers, was a lemon (and walnut) producer. Using care to distinguish between California oranges and lemons is important because the producers of the latter continued to be much more dependent on tariff protection to stave off European competition than producers of the former.

The cost of this broad take on the subject matter is that Sackman pays limited attention to many issues of interest to economic historians. The economic literature has focused on whether the cooperatives such as Sunkist were strictly rent-extracting output-restricting cartels or whether they increased efficiency by lowering costs and solving marketing problems. In either case, how did such organizations solve the “free rider” problem to retain members and market position? The advertising of Sunkist was costly and inevitably some of the increased demand would spill over to non-Sunkist citrus. How were outsiders prevented from reaping what they did not sow? Advertising and branding might also provide informative signals about quality to consumers concerned about purchasing spoilt or dry and pulpy fruit. Sackman’s treatment leaves these issues largely unexplored. Although focused on Palestine, Karlinsky’s work does a far better job discussing the challenges of running a cartel. Sackman’s book is also silent on tariff policy and global trade, providing no indication of the role of protectionism in building California’s Orange Empire. Finally and most unfortunately, the book’s last chapter devotes just a few pages to the Empire’s fall, to its disappearance from Southern California in the post-War period as a result of suburbanization, smog, and the open land of the San Joaquin Valley. That is a story bearing a fresh telling.

Note:

1. Frank Adams, “Agriculture in Palestine,” California Countryman (Jan. 1928), p. 21.

Paul Rhode is the author (with Jos? Morilla Critz and Alan L. Olmstead) of “‘Horn of Plenty’: The Globalization of Mediterranean Horticulture and the Economic Development of Southern Europe, 1880-1930,” Journal of Economic History (1999). Beginning in January 2007, he will join the Department of Economics at the University of Arizona.

Subject(s):Social and Cultural History, including Race, Ethnicity and Gender
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: Pre WWII

The Legacy of Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose: Economic Liberalism at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Author(s):Wynne, Mark
Rosenblum, Harvey
Formaini, Robert
Reviewer(s):Taylor, Ranald
Leeson, Robert

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

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Mark Wynne, Harvey Rosenblum and Robert Formaini, editors, The Legacy of Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose: Economic Liberalism at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. Dallas: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 2004. vii + 251 pp. $ (hardback), ISBN: Info: 0-9763494-1-8

Reviewed for EH.NET by Ranald Taylor and Robert Leeson, Department of Economics, Murdoch University.

This book is a collection of papers presented at a conference held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in October 2003. It is a tribute to Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose. The papers have a dominant theme: competitive markets can solve many of the problems associated with education, environmental degradation, taxation, cultural diversity, globalization, financial markets and monetary stability. The book is organized into six sessions, each devoted to particular issues which the Friedmans have raised in Free to Choose.

Session one sets the tone of the book by revisiting Milton Friedman’s organizing argument: that competition ensures economic freedom and that the appropriate role of a government in a free society is to ensure that competitive markets function freely. Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson examine the coexistence of what they believe to be the declining state of the public school system in the U.S. and rising real spending per pupil. Hanushek argues for a competitive market-based funding system in the form of vouchers. Resistance to vouchers, he believes, derives from an old ideology. Hanushek argues that it is easier to defeat communism than to overcome the education establishment’s resistance to meaningful reform of the public school system.

Advocates of ‘sustainable development’ advocate changes in virtually every aspect of consumption and production. In session two Terry Anderson and Laura Huggins argue that sustainable development theory is vague and “operationally vacuous” (p. 58). They challenge the two fundamental pillars of sustainable development: ‘running out’ of resources will leave future generation with less, and market processes are the causes of these depletions. According to Anderson, Huggins and Richard Stroup, the over consumption of natural resources is primarily linked to ill-defined property rights rather than the operation of the market system. Property rights, they argue, provide the structures that are necessary for development, innovation, conservation and the discovery of new resources. They maintain that countries with greater economic freedom and rule of law tend to have higher environmental standards than countries where the rule of law is weak.

One of the themes of Free to Choose was that government has grown far beyond the size necessary for the protection of liberty. In session three, William Niskanen constructs a model to estimate the optimal level of expenditure for government services relative to GDP. His estimate (10 percent of GDP) provides support for smaller governments. Liqun Liu, Andrew J. Rettenmaier and Thomas R. Saving argue that falling birth rates and rising life expectancy have made the current social security system unsustainable. Their analysis of the costs and benefits of a transition to a privately-funded system, suggests that during the transition period there would be a cost involved in the form of lower consumption. However, in the longer term, they argue, the transition would make the country as a whole better off by enhancing the nation’s capital stock.

In session four, Tyler Cowen deals with the implications of Free to Choose for culture, diversity and aesthetics. Globalization and free trade benefit both cultural diversity and the creative arts, Cowan argues: periods of greater freedom in international trade tend to be periods of greater cultural diversity and creativity.

Peter J. Boettke examines the impact of Free to Choose on global movement toward free markets during the period from 1979 to 2003. During this period, communism collapsed in the Second World, the Third World began to reject development planning, and many First World countries reformed their welfare states. Boettke notes that much post-communist privatization was inspired by Friedman’s writings.

Gregory Chow uses the central themes of Free to Choose to examine post-1978 reforms in China, sensing progress in all areas. With reference to education, Chow claims that there is probably a greater degree of freedom of choice in education in China than the U.S. (he argues that about 40 percent of all spending on education in China comes from private sources compared to an average of 12 percent in the OECD countries).

Session five has a topical immediacy given that the Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Luigi Zingales argues that access to finance is crucial to promote competition and economic freedom. Zingales describes the fate of two Bangladeshi women (one with access to finance, the other without). The second found it extremely difficult to develop her stool making business; the first obtained a small loan from the Grameen Bank to acquire a Nokia cellular phone. The phone made a huge difference in her life and the lives of her fellow villagers by bringing information at low cost to farmers and tradesman. The phone reduced business costs facilitating profits about twice the average national monthly income.

Zingales argues that although financing is a risky and complex activity, riddled with adverse selection and moral hazard, it is government intervention that is the main obstacle: “In spite of the enormous challenges intrinsic to the financing activity, human ingenuity, when allowed to work freely, is able to devise many mechanisms to enlarge access to finance. It cannot, however, overcome the power of the government, when this is determined to block finance. Unfortunately, governments are too often captured by rich incumbents, who stand to gain very little and risk a lot from the development of finance” (p. 188).

Allan H. Meltzer itemizes twenty-five specific policy proposals initiated by Milton Friedman (some of which have been adopted and many of which have not) to minimize government intervention. He looks at some of the successes (ending the military draft, floating the dollar, the abolition of interest rate ceiling on bank deposits) and some partial successes (lowering tariff barriers, deregulation various industries in the U.S., the introduction of a school voucher system in certain U.S. states).

Ben S. Bernanke examines eleven of Friedman’s key monetarist propositions. According to Bernanke, Friedman’s counter-revolution is still very much alive: “one can check to see if an economy has a stable monetary background only by looking at macroeconomic indicators such as nominal GDP growth and inflation. On this criterion it appears that modern central bankers have taken Milton Friedman’s advice to heart” (p. 213).

The last session traces the relationship between economic freedom and growth performance. The Friedmans believe that economically free countries would grow more rapidly and achieve higher income levels than less free countries. To test their hypothesis, they saw the need to develop a scientific instrument that could be used to quantify the degree of economic freedom across a large number of countries. James Gwartney pioneered the construction of indexes to proxy economic freedom. Based on the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index (taking into account of private ownership, voluntary exchange, personal choice, and free entry into markets), Gwartney and Robert Lawson report that a one-unit increase in the EFW index enhanced growth by 0.71 percentage points over the period 1980-2000: “Friedman was right” (p. 232).

As a conclusion to the book, Raghuram G. Rajan offers some reflections on whether the free market tide may retreat (in Latin America, for example). Rajan argues that the growing backlash against pro-market reforms is driven by elites who tend to undermine equality of opportunities by opposing widespread access to markets.

This is a fascinating book — a must read for Friedman fans. One of Friedman’s strengths was (and is) his intense curiosity about the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and unexamined assumptions of his opponents. Some of those who have documented the progress of his ideas have been struck by the initial lack of reciprocity in this respect (in the early days his ideas were often dismissed as Chicago eccentricity). Friedman was a dominant figure among the first generation of post-war libertarians: this salute by some of the second generation provides an insight into the dynamics of the ideas that he developed and propagated.

Ranald Taylor is the author of “Can Labour-Savings, Capital-Intensive Production Techniques Reduce Unemployment Rates in Developing Countries?” Australian Journal of Labour Economics (2004). He is currently working on a project tracing the evolution of technological progress since Adam Smith.

Robert Leeson is the co-author (with W.J. Darity and W. Young) of Economics, Economists and Expectations: From Microfoundations to Macroapplications (Routledge: 2004) and is currently editing Milton Friedman’s Collected Writings.

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Subject(s):History of Economic Thought; Methodology
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

From Boardroom to the War Room: America’s Corporate Liberals and FDR’s Preparedness Program

Author(s):Holl, Richard E.
Reviewer(s):Namorato, Michael V.

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

Spencer Weber Waller, Thurman Arnold: A Biography. New York: New York University Press, 2005. xi + 271 pp. $40 (cloth), ISBN: 0-8147-9392-4.

Richard E. Holl, From Boardroom to the War Room: America’s Corporate Liberals and FDR’s Preparedness Program. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005. x + 191 pp. $75 (cloth), ISBN: 1-58046-192-1.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Michael V. Namorato, Department of History, University of Mississippi.

These studies by Spencer Waller and Richard Holl have a number of interesting commonalities: both discuss American business, both address the importance of the New Deal and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies, and both analyze how business and the New Deal interacted. They differ primarily in their approaches to these distinct areas of concern. Where Waller writes a biography of Thurman Arnold who was a member of the Department of Justice in the late 1930s, Holl looks at how American corporate businessmen (or liberals, as he calls them) worked with the Roosevelt Administration. Even more interesting is how these very corporate liberals and Thurman Arnold perceived each other.

Waller argues very forcefully that Thurman Arnold was a unique individual in so many ways. He was “in essence the decathlon champion of American law” (p. 2). He was a practitioner, a law school dean, a legal realist, author, New Dealer, creator and enforcer of modern anti-trust laws, a federal judge, a defender of free speech during the McCarthy era, and the founder of one of the most prominent law firms in Washington today. As a person, moreover, Waller paints a picture of this icon as one who liked to be funny, was not much of a father (but made up for it by being a better grandfather), and whose loyalty to his friends, such as Abe Fortas, never wavered.

In reaching these conclusions, Waller meticulously studies Arnold’s life — beginning with his parents, childhood in Wyoming, education at Princeton, and law school at Harvard. An average student, Arnold developed his interests in writing and partying, although, by law school, he focused more and more on the work at hand. As a young lawyer, Arnold went to Chicago where he took on cases that seemed to be routine and not very challenging. When World War I broke out, he served in France after which he and his wife returned to Laramie to set up home and a law practice.

Waller recounts details about Arnold’s life as a small town politician and later dean of the West Virginia College of Law, which helped him to survive the Great Depression. From there, he went to the Yale Law School as a teacher. Waller spends a considerable amount of time discussing how Arnold became a “legal realist” at Yale. He also summarizes in detail Arnold’s writings in such works as The Symbols of Government and The Folklore of Capitalism. Undoubtedly, these exercises in teaching and writing helped prepare him for the later work he would do in the New Deal in the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice.

In Chapter 6, Waller recounts how Arnold got into the New Deal and worked on the enforcement of anti-trust laws, and how Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to what he had done. The author gives long, in-depth explanations of the cases that Arnold pursued — which were won, lost, or had a long-term impact on American jurisprudence. Probably the most significant discussion in these sections recounts how Arnold perceived anti-trust as a means of preventing abuse of power in the business world. Relentless in promoting himself and his causes, Arnold continually lobbied for more staff, resources, and funds. Several cases would go on to become quite important in legal history such as the Alcoa, American Medical Association, and oil industry cases. Nevertheless, with his usefulness diminishing, Arnold left the New Deal to start a new life as a federal judge.

His judgeship was quite unhappy and Arnold was relieved to get out of it and into opening a private practice, at first with Reed Miller. Later, of course, Arnold joined forces with Abe Fortas and Paul Porter. Together, they established one of the most prominent law firms in Washington. The remainder of the book studies how the firm grew, how it got involved in the McCarthy era witch hunt cases, and Arnold’s work with Coca Cola and Fortas’ relationship with Lyndon Johnson. By the 1960s, Arnold was an icon among lawyers in Washington, despite his outspoken views on Vietnam and other issues. On November 7, 1969, after telling his wife Frances that he was not sure he wanted to live any longer, he died peacefully.

Richard Holl, unlike Waller, takes a different approach in his study of American business and the New Deal. Essentially, Holl looks at what he calls the “corporate liberals” of the American business world. These were visionary businessmen who sought to work with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal instead of fighting against it. They saw cooperation with the government as a means of avoiding a stronger central state and as a way of re-creating industrial self-government.

Holl makes the case that these corporate liberals were those businessmen in the 1920s who were very much in favor of welfare capitalism and trade associationism. They wanted to help workers, improve business’s position in American society, and collaborate with the federal government. Specifically, Holl focuses on Henry Dennison, Gerard Swope, Marion Folsom, Edward Stettinius, William Knudsen, Donald Nelson, Averell Harriman, Owen Young, and a few others.

Starting with the 1920s, Holl details how these corporate liberals tried to develop their own welfare capitalist plan in his their own companies and how the Great Depression forced them to retract their promises. However, Holl goes on to show that these corporate liberals, especially people like Stettinius, Knudsen, and Nelson, worked with Franklin Roosevelt in his New Deal, beginning with the National Recovery Administration, Social Security, and the Wagner Act. Holl argues forcefully that the BAC (Business Advisory Council) of the Department of Commerce sustained the corporate liberals’ presence within the Roosevelt Administration. Even though most historians talk about the anti-Roosevelt business position by 1937-38, Holl points out that there were still a number of corporate liberals who supported the president. With Harry Hopkins in the Commerce Department, these corporate liberals like Willard Thorp, Edward Noble, and Robert Wood worked with the secretary to see how businessmen could foster New Deal objectives as, for example, with the Bureau of Industrial Economics.

But, it was really in the preparedness area that the corporate liberals made their mark. Holl meticulously relates how the United States was unprepared for World War II. Roosevelt and the corporate liberals knew it and realized that something had to be done to rectify this dangerous situation. Neither Roosevelt nor the corporate liberals wanted a state-centered answer like the “all-outers” New Dealers, such as Harold Ickes. Instead, the president and his business supporters called for and got cooperation.

This is where Holl contributes his most original ideas. Using Stettinius, Knudsen, and Nelson as backdrops, Holl studies how the War Resources Board, the National Defense Advisory Commission, and the Office of Production Management went about helping the United States prepare itself for war by bringing the military and business together, by having “educational orders” filled out by companies that would have to produce military supplies, by having these influential businessmen direct the military and civilian authorities along workable paths for meeting wartime demands, and by giving the president leeway to develop and foster cooperation between business and government. In the end, it all worked in the sense that the corporate liberals kept the extreme radical New Dealers and extreme anti-New Deal businessmen from dominating war preparations.

How does one assess these two works on the New Deal? In many ways Waller’s book is a biography about a lawyer which is written by a lawyer. This is not meant in any way to demean or detract from the study. Waller has written a good work on an individual who has not received as much attention as he deserves. It should also be pointed out, however, that there are a few shortcomings in this work. The author spends too much time summarizing Arnold’s briefs and his writings. He also tends to give Arnold more importance than he might have had. And, his portrayal of Arnold as an individual is sometimes lost in the maze of all the “legalese” that the reader has to confront.

On the other hand, it is clear that Holl has done an extensive amount of research on the corporate liberals and wartime agencies. His research is solid, his ideas are definitely interesting, and his writing style is fine. But, again as in the case of Waller, Holl has a couple of shortcomings. The most important weakness is that he tends to re-iterate much of what others have said about businessmen, especially Ellis Hawley. What makes Holl’s work original, though, is that he focuses more on the individual corporate executives. Here, his contribution is, indeed, significant.

In closing, both Waller’s biography of Thurman Arnold and Holl’s study of America’s corporate liberals are solid examples of old-fashioned, good historical research and analysis. Both have offered interesting perspectives on their subjects and both have given us some original ideas to look at and consider when it comes to American business, the New Deal, and the anti-trust laws.

Michael V. Namorato, Professor of History at the University of Mississippi, specializes in the Great Depression-New Deal era. He is currently working with two co-authors on a political, economic study of child welfare in Mississippi.

Subject(s):Military and War
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

Industrializing American Shipbuilding: The Transformation of Ship Design and Construction, 1820-1920

Author(s):Thiesen, William H.
Reviewer(s):Sicotte, Richard

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

William H. Thiesen, Industrializing American Shipbuilding: The Transformation of Ship Design and Construction, 1820-1920. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2006. x + 302 pp. $55 (cloth), ISBN: 0-8130-2940-6.

Review for EH.NET by Richard Sicotte, Department of Economics, University of Vermont.

William H. Thiesen’s Industrializing American Shipbuilding is a carefully researched, insightful book that focuses on the evolution of U.S. shipbuilding from a craft to a modern heavy industry. Thiesen is the curator of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. With impressive command of the details, he chronicles the enormous changes in the design and construction of ships from 1820 to 1920. Thus, the book is primarily of history of technology, but Thiesen’s very effective presentation also contains substantial information about particular business enterprises, shipyards, entrepreneurs, scientists and naval officers.

The book is organized as follows. The first chapter discusses the origins of U.S. craft shipbuilding methods. The ascendance of scientific design and construction in Great Britain in the nineteenth century is the topic of chapter two. Chapters three and four describe the growth and heyday of American wooden shipbuilding. The fifth is one of the most creative and interesting chapters, in which Thiesen describes the transition from wood to iron. In the sixth and seventh chapters, the author discusses ship design, and the belated adoption of scientific methods in U.S. shipbuilding. Thiesen then describes the revolution in U.S. ship construction, through the invention and adoption of labor-saving machinery and greatly improved production organization. The final chapter is a thoughtful summary and conclusion.

Thiesen has provided an important, perhaps indispensable contribution for answering some of the questions about U.S. shipbuilding that would probably be of most interest to economic historians. For example, when and why did the U.S. apparently lose its comparative advantage in shipbuilding? American-built steamships played a minor role in international shipping in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, carrying only a fraction of U.S. oceanborne commerce. Previous scholarship has focused, without much quantitative evidence on costs of production, on the changes from wood to iron and sail to steam, as explaining the decline of U.S. shipping. Although Thiesen provides little in the way of quantitative analysis, his detailed account of American shipbuilding methods will provide researchers interested in the comparative advantage question with a number of promising leads of where to look for evidence, and how to develop alternative hypotheses. In chapter five, he convincingly demonstrates the “cross-fertilization” of techniques between the wood and iron branches of the U.S. shipbuilding industry, and argues that the construction of iron ships in mid-nineteenth century United States was largely a craft. Thiesen describes the step-by-step process of the construction of the iron steamship Saratoga in the 1870s. The extent of custom-fitting is striking. Still, I was left wondering whether it was possible to provide a reasonable quantitative estimate of how much additional cost these methods implied relative to practices employed in other countries. Just how important were demand-side factors, relative labor costs, and access to resources in determining the comparatively poor performance of U.S. iron shipbuilding?

Thiesen’s description in chapter eight of the application of electric power and cutting-edge technology at the New York Shipbuilding Company is highly provocative. He cites European visitors to the yard as being awestruck by the high-tech operation, and describes how the U.S. began to be a source of shipbuilding technology transfer rather than only a destination. He does not show, however, what the effects of these innovations were on the competitive position of American shipbuilding relative to its foreign rivals. Because foreign firms adopted many U.S. innovations, it seems likely that the effects were mitigated.

A second major research question about U.S. shipbuilding concerns the effects of U.S. public policy toward the industry. Thiesen is decidedly critical of the tariff on iron, arguing that it was a serious impediment to the industry’s development. He argues that without the federal regulation reserving coastal traffic for American ships, the industry would have been much smaller. (The Great Lakes became the major center of U.S. shipbuilding in the late nineteenth century.) The most innovative and well documented contribution he makes insofar as public policy, however, is the vital role that the U.S. Navy played in bringing scientific design and modern naval architecture to the industry. The Navy sent officers and engineers to Europe in the 1870s and 1880s to learn modern techniques. Later, naval engineers were assigned to teach courses at American universities, eventually leading to the establishment at several universities of degree programs in naval architecture. Thiesen states that the “development of a naval-industrial complex paved the way for more systematic ship design and construction methods” (p. 159).

William Thiesen has produced an excellent book. It is a must-read for maritime historians, and of major interest for historians of technology. It also will stimulate research on some of the most interesting questions surrounding the comparative advantage of U.S. shipbuilding industry and of U.S. heavy industry more generally.

Richard Sicotte is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Vermont. His research has focused on the shipping industry, its market structure and effects on international trade and migration.

Subject(s):Transport and Distribution, Energy, and Other Services
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: Pre WWII

The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster

Author(s):Vale, Lawrence J.
Campanella, Thomas J.
Reviewer(s):Frey, Donald E.

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

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Lawrence J. Vale and Thomas J. Campanella, editors, The Resilient City: How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. xiv + 376 pp. $25 (paperback), ISBN: 0-19-517583-2.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Donald E. Frey, Department of Economics, Wake Forest University.

This volume presents a set of fourteen case studies (plus introduction and conclusion) of urban recovery following major disasters, which range from earthquakes and fires to military and terrorist traumas. The editors, Vale and Campanella are affiliated with MIT and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, respectively. This volume appeared too soon to have a chapter on the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans. Despite the sub-title, parts of several chapters deal with pre-modern urban disasters. None of the authors is identified as an economist; but urban designers, planners, architects, journalists, and historians are represented.

Though most urban economics texts say surprisingly little about urban disaster and recovery, an economic approach to the topic would probably emphasize certain stylized facts: 1) that death and damage in modern cities are far less for comparable disasters than in third-world cities, due to standards of construction and technologies that poor countries cannot afford; 2) that recovery of key functions often starts quickly due to redundancy in urban infrastructure, substitution possibilities, and excess capacity; 3) that needed resources can potentially flow very quickly from the untouched larger society into the stricken area, provided, 4), that financial resources (insurance, grants, loans and savings) are readily available; 5), that a city becomes increasingly disaster-resistant as revised building codes, new technologies, etc., affect successive rebuilding efforts; finally, 6) that cities remain in disaster-prone locations because the modern city is typically so highly productive compared to the cost of rebuilding.

The Resilient City does not take such “stylized facts” at face value and work from them. Rather, without doing so explicitly, it reveals that such economic “givens” may actually be dependent on a host of deeper factors. For example, the availability of massive financing (and thus resources) must, in fact, occur in successful recoveries; however, political leadership, legal frameworks, cultural attitudes, traditions, and social goals may significantly affect whether, in what form, and at what rate, financing of redevelopment actually occurs.

The essays are partitioned into three sections. The first part (three chapters) deals with the dominant public “narratives” that emerge around disasters in order to interpret them and give them a public meaning. A narrative “grid over the bewildering mayhem” provides direction and hope. Such semi-official narratives may well have abetted the decision-making that allowed rapid reconstruction after the Chicago fire and the San Francisco earthquake; both were interpreted publicly as blessings in disguise, allowing for new futures that were grander projections of the cities’ pasts.

Part two deals with the symbolic dimensions of urban recovery, particularly of cities devastated by war. Again, while economists would note the aggregate importance of financing and resources needed to rebuild, the authors of these studies are more interested in particular purposes to which resources are devoted, and why. One essay is a case study of the post-war rebuilding of East and West Berlin by the competing Soviet and Western powers. The ideological competition no doubt sped the recovery, but it also shaped the recovery in the two sectors. Though occurring virtually side-by-side, the design, functional, and architectural choices were significantly different. A similar statement can be made for the post-war reconstruction of Warsaw. Though the Soviets and the local communist government had no Western competition, communist ideology competed with indigenous Polish nationalism as major planning decisions were made.

Finally, part three deals with the “conflict-riddled nature of resilience.” Perhaps the occupying powers of Berlin and Warsaw had a relatively free hand. However, the story was very different in Los Angles after the riots of 1992. The deep divisions among the population groups of L.A. that led to the riots in the first place hindered rebuilding. The area remained unattractive to large retailers, the NIMBY syndrome worked against proposals for redevelopment, and efforts to work with existing minority power-structures fell afoul of long-standing factional divisions among those very minorities. Instead, the riot area recovered despite itself as an influx of Latin immigrants, and the institutions they brought in their wake, created a sort of vitality amidst vacant lots and buildings.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina could have added another chapter to this volume. It is clear that the productivity of New Orleans as an entertainment venue and as an international port has been great enough to spur a rapid influx of capital, and some population, to restore those sectors. It is also clear that the political divisions among national, state and local leaders, which were vastly heightened during the first traumatic days, have impeded the restoration of public infrastructure of the city. For its part, residential housing has thus far depended on private financing such as insurance, personal resources, and loans; and the result seems to be that lower income areas of the city have yet to see much recovery. Several of the pieces in The Resilient City note that disasters only sometimes have been used as opportunities to take account of new realities. There appears so far to have been little high-level thought devoted to whether rebuilding a sinking city that is already below sea-level, located along an eroding coastline, is economically rational. At present, the decision may be made by default as many citizens simply fail to return and rebuild.

Donald E. Frey has recently completed a book manuscript titled America’s Economic Moralists. He has taught urban economics for many years and has written about the use and abuse of the economic multiplier when evaluating the benefits of local economic development projects.

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Subject(s):Urban and Regional History
Geographic Area(s):General, International, or Comparative
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

The Social Sources of Financial Power: Domestic Legitimacy and International Financial Orders

Author(s):Seabrooke, Leonard
Reviewer(s):Andrews, David M.

Published by EH.NET (November 2006)

Leonard Seabrooke, The Social Sources of Financial Power: Domestic Legitimacy and International Financial Orders. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006. xvii + 223 pp. $45 (cloth), ISBN: 0-8014-4380-6.

Reviewed for EH.NET by David M. Andrews, Department of Politics and International Relations, Scripps College.

This is an interesting book. The author, an associate professor at the Copenhagen Business School, begins by posing a conventional political-economy question — how do states generate financial capacity? — but addresses it unconventionally. Normally the focus of such a study would be, as the author puts it, on “the big end of town,” meaning the relationship between large financial institutions, national regulators and economic elites. Seabrooke instead scrutinizes “the small end of town”: the half of the population below the median income, and in particular the broad group capable of scraping together some savings without ever running the risk of amassing a fortune. Seabrooke insists that the everyday economic struggles faced by this group “have causal significance in shaping a financial system” (p. 1), and that understanding these struggles is necessary for a correct understanding of both domestic and international finance.

The delicate financial relationship between state and society is well known, and it is hardly novel to argue against killing the goose that lays the golden egg. But Seabrooke’s thesis differs from most in his focus on the role of non-elites. He draws attention to what he calls the “financial reform nexus”: the cluster of policies affecting the tax burden, credit access, and prospects for property ownership of lower-income groups. Seabrooke argues that progressive (or what he calls “positive”) state intervention in the financial reform nexus “deepens and broadens the domestic pool of capital and propagates financial practices that bring capital flowing back to the state” (p. xii).

Central to Seabrooke’s discussion is the concept of legitimacy. People have expectations about what forms of state intervention in the economy are appropriate; and while prevailing social norms differ across societies, and from one time period to the next, failure to act in consonance with those norms comes at a price. Seabrooke’s careful case studies counter the conventional wisdom on a number of points; for example, he finds that state intervention in the financial reform nexus in Wilhelmine Germany was regressive (“negative”) rather than progressive (“positive”), as Berlin’s policies consistently favored rentier over bourgeois interests. His focus on local expectations also leads him to unconventional conclusions, as in his characterization of U.S. financial policy in the 1990s. He argues that this was “positive” rather than “negative,” even though domestic income inequality was not relieved — as this latter outcome was not a requirement for legitimacy under prevailing social norms.

The four main cases — England and Germany during the decades prior to the First World War, and the United States and Japan during the late twentieth century — are excellent, and the evidence presented therein is sufficient to establish the plausibility of the book’s main domestic thesis: namely, that there is an intimate connection between the everyday economic struggles faced by the lower half of the domestic population and the financial and political trajectories of individual states.

The book’s claims at the international level, however, find less support. It is certainly true that the cases underline how domestic interests shape the international financial policy preferences of leading states: for example, Seabrooke notes (as have others) the connection between the views of private U.S. banks regarding capital adequacy requirements and official U.S. policy on the same, leading to the Basel Accord in 1988. But that is a conventional story — a story about how actors at “the big end of town” influence international policy. Seabrooke’s intention is more ambitious.

“The key proposition of this book,” Seabrooke writes, “is that if a state intervenes positively to legitimate its financial reform nexus for lower-income groupings, it can provide a sustainable basis from which to increase its international financial capacity” (p. 173). More specifically, “if the principal state [in the international financial order] can legitimate its financial reform nexus to a high degree, it has a more sustainable basis with which to influence the international financial order and encourage other states” to organize their own domestic economies accordingly (p. 17).

To test this thesis, the case studies are structured around two questions: why was Germany unable to replace England as the world’s financial leader in the years before World War I, despite widespread contemporary expectations that it would do so; and likewise “why did Japan fail to wrestle primacy in the international financial order away from the United States” (p. 141) in the late twentieth century. Seabrooke concludes that a large part of the answer has to do with the failure of the challenger state to pursue progressive financial policies at home.

This is a bridge too far. The domestic policies Seabrooke traces so heroically may indeed have played a role in sustaining England’s financial dominance of one hundred years ago, as well as the hegemonic position of the United States today. But the evidence he mounts, while impressive, does not allow us to judge whether that role was decisive or incidental. The respective failures of early twentieth century Germany and late twentieth century Japan, after all, seem overdetermined.

As Seabrooke employs numerous counterfactuals in this volume, I indulge in one here. Had the Japanese state adopted more progressive domestic financial policies toward its non-elites in the late 1980s and 1990s; and had these changes in policy permitted Japan to avoid entirely its long national economic stagnation — a very big if, but let us grant it — the external consequences would doubtless have been profound. Certainly Tokyo would have been in a much stronger position to influence the content of the international financial order — to fight its corner and defend its interests. But it remains far from clear that Japan would then have been able to “wrestle primacy … away from the United States,” even a United States led by the far-from-progressive administration of George W. Bush (the subject of the book’s epilogue).

International financial primacy results from many factors. Domestic legitimacy, understood in Seabrooke’s terms, is logically one of them. Whether legitimacy’s influence is predominant, however, is a question ultimately left unanswered by this very provocative volume.

David M. Andrews is editor of International Monetary Power (Cornell University Press, 2006), and co-editor of Governing the World’s Money (Cornell University Press, 2002).

Subject(s):Financial Markets, Financial Institutions, and Monetary History
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII

Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition

Author(s):Carter, Susan B.
Gartner, Scott Sigmund
Haines, Michael R.
Olmstead, Alan L.
Sutch, Richard
Wright, Gavin
Reviewer(s):Williamson, Samuel H.

Published by EH.NET (October 2006)

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Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright, editors, Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (Online Version). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

(Note: The price of Historical Statistics is going up on November 1 — from $825 to $990 for the five-volume print version, and from $1,250 to $1,450 for the online version purchased by individuals. The online version for libraries is more expensive and the price depends on the library’s size.)

Reviewed for EH.NET by Samuel H. Williamson, Department of Economics, Miami University.

The publishing of Historical Statistic of the United States: Millennial Edition is a major event for American economic historians. It comes in five volumes and is also accessible online. The online package will be reviewed below, but first I want to comment on the entire project.

EH.Net has already published a review of each volume and all the reviews have been full of praise. Here is a list of the volume titles, each of which is linked to its review.

1. Population — http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/1092.shtml

2. Work and Welfare — http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/1101.shtml

3. Economic Structure and Performance — http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/1096.shtml

4. Economic Sectors — http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/1088.shtml

5. Governance and International Relations — http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/1064.shtml

The work, however, is more than the sum of its parts. This is the fourth version of Historical Statistics (HS) and it is greatly expanded from the previous editions. It is also the first edition not published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The first HS came out in 1949 as an appendix to the Statistical Abstract of the United States. The second edition was published in 1960, followed by the Bicentennial Edition in 1975. The first three editions had 3,000, 8,000 and 12,500 series, respectively. The current edition has 37,339 series that include dozens of new topics and introductory essays explaining the sources and limitations of the data presented. One of the appendices (found in volume five), written by Carmel Chiswick, explains the origins of HS and is very useful for putting the current edition in perspective.

This work has been twelve years in the making. It started in 1993 when a group of interested organizations met with representatives from the Census Bureau who indicated that they could not commit to a new edition, but would support the venture if these groups did it. In the end, over 80 scholars with the support 70 plus organizations produced this Millennial Edition. While it was a huge project that depended on the contributions of many, in my opinion, two people should be especially singled out. They are Richard Sutch and Frank Smith. Sutch organized the original meeting with the Census Bureau and (with no disrespect meant for the considerable work of the other four editors) based on my observations, he has been the chief organizer ever since. If I understand correctly, Smith has been the economics editor from Cambridge Press in charge of this project over the past twelve years — the one who has had to bear up under missed deadlines and unanticipated expenses and yet who ultimately saw the project through to the valuable, polished finished product we are enjoying today.

The delays in the project will be readily evident to most readers. For example, a large number of series are from census data, but most of the edition’s data collection was done before the 2000 census data were available. Thus, most (but not all) of the decadal series end in 1990. Many of the annual series end in 1998 or 1999, though a few extend as far as 2002. There are, however, many, many series that end at other years. For example, the twenty-seven tables on employment and industry end in eight different years from 1940 to 2000.

This quibble aside, it is important to note that each table comes with source notes, documentation and definitions that are very helpful. However, while it is understandable the editors wanted to include so many useful series, this inclusiveness may overwhelm the average user.

My review of the online version has been delayed partially because this version has been a work in progress. When I first started, there were too many programming glitches for me to give the work a fair review. However, the editors at Cambridge Press have been very open in communicating with me and in working to fix these problems. Perhaps the biggest advantage of an online version would be the ability to copy tables and paste them into a spreadsheet. However, when I initially tried this, I found that negative numbers were not formatted to be able to paste. This problem has recently been fixed.

The online version has all the tables and essays that are in the print version and reports all data in an unrounded format. There is a good search engine that is helpful in finding things, which is particularly useful if the user does not have the print version available. In addition, the version allows users to create custom tables that can combine series from all the diverse series.

The most important tool is the graphing program. By creating a custom table, the user can compare any of the series over time or in a scatter diagram. For a user accessing this program online in a library, this will be an invaluable part of the package. The user can create graphs in color and print or download them. The online user can also send tables to any email address and the recipient has ten days to view it. While the program notes that “you can download [output] in PDF and/or Excel during this time,” this appears to be only true if the recipient has an account. On the other hand, the numbers in the tables can be copied from the browser.

My tests of the graphing tool were 1) creating a custom table and then using the graphing program; 2) creating a custom table, downloading it and then creating a graph in Excel; and 3) going to the various series, copying the numbers I wanted, pasting them into Excel and creating a graph. For me the third choice won, but I must add that I am an experienced Excel user and I could not have done this if I were not logged on to HS on a computer that also had Excel. Most researchers are going to want to use Excel or some other package to graph, as the program on HS has fewer graphing options.

The Government Printing Office still sells the 1975, Bicentennial Historical Statistics edition, which is 1,200 pages in two volumes, for $114.50. The Millennium edition of five volumes, with 4,500 pages is selling for $990 as of November 1, making it more than eight times as expensive. This price may mean that these volumes will seldom be found outside university and other research libraries. With the online version at $1,450, it will even be less likely to be commonly found. On the other hand, everything but the tables and essays are available free online, so that a user can search for a table or essay and then view it for printing or downloading for $6 each

I have no idea what percent of the 37,339 series are currently still being collected and could be updated. For those that have an unchanged definition and are from public sources, such as the Census, it should be quite easy. For others that are period specific or where a base year has been updated, or the bundle has changed — such as real GDP or the various price indexes — it would be difficult or just not practical since often these revisions are to all the observations.

The online version of Historical Statistics? is a great innovation, but it would be much more valuable if it was more than a reprint of the text version and contemporary tables were updated. I would expect that one full-time researcher could update dozens of them a day. Integrating them into the format of the tables should be possible.

My other suggestion to the editors is that they publish an HS “light” with a few hundred of the most popular tables and link it to the online version. If it could be priced for less than $100, then small libraries and others could buy it and would be directed to the online version to purchase the essays and other tables for the $6.

Samuel H. Williamson, cofounder and president of MeasuringWorth (www.measuringworth.com), is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, from Miami University. In 1983 he was a cofounder of the Cliometric Society and served as its executive director for sixteen years. In 1996 he founded EH.NET and was its executive director until 2003.

Copyright (c) 2006 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net Administrator (administrator@eh.net; Telephone: 513-529-2229). Published by EH.Net (October 2006). All EH.Net reviews are archived at http://www.eh.net/BookReview.

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Subject(s):Economic Development, Growth, and Aggregate Productivity
Geographic Area(s):North America
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII