Business History and the Atlantic World
Field Director: Edward J. Balleisen
This reading list has crystallized (or is crystallizing) around arguments business historians have had over the timing of the rupture between early modern and modern corporate forms. Alfred Chandler, for instance, situates the originary moment of the modern firm in the middle of the nineteenth century, when technological innovations made it possible to create business organizations of previously unimaginable size and complexity. Thomas Cochran however, argues the critical period was that which immediately followed the American Revolution, when geographical and political conditions led to the ascendancy of a new type of innovative and experimental business man. What Chandler and Cochran agree on is that a radical break did occur, that it occurred in the North Atlantic economy, and that it eventually led to the emergence of a new, and modern, institution. By the twentieth century the family-owned and family-run firms, so characteristic of business in the colonial period, had for the most part been outperformed, and therefore marginalized, by much larger, professionally managed corporations.
This historical break is mirrored by one in the historiography. Those business historians interested in kinship, long distance trade, and religion, tend to work in the Atlantic world of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Historians of this earlier period are quite quick to mobilize the idea of culture in their analyses of business institutions – they frequently question how ideas about the family, society and the world shaped behavior in the market place. Those who are interested in the rise of the modern corporation and in global capitalism tend to look to the nineteenth century and beyond. Historians of this later period often treat the economic aspirations of businessmen, if not consumer society, as rational and transparent. I am not convinced such a division of labor is useful. My intuition is that social structures, such as familial and confessional networks, continued to play an important role on the modern side of this great divide, albeit a role that was, and continues to be, obscured by the language of political economy. While I do not expect to prove or disprove such an intuition in my thesis, I do expect to find evidence of nineteenth century ideologies that challenged, and in so doing illuminated, those based on homo economicus.
The Carvossos, the Methodist missionary family whose history I will be constructing for my thesis, were at best marginal players in the world economy, but they were certainly participants in it, and particularly keen observers. William Carvosso, the grandfather, experienced the industrialization of the Cornish landscape and rejected shareholder capitalism as immoral. His son Benjamin married into a Cornish shipbuilding family and was an active advocate of migration to the far reaches of the Empire. William’s grandsons Joseph Carvosso and Robert Rundle worked among aboriginal populations struggling to cope with their forced integration into a global economy. His granddaughter Louisa and her husband were missionaries first to the Chinese in Shanghai and then to those who joined the Cariboo Gold Rush. And finally, his grandson David Carvosso was a ship’s captain who transported labor from India to the West Indies and from Britain to Australia. The religious and kin networks the Carvossos depended on for their livelihood, and which expanded and contracted as did the British Empire, provided them with an extra-ordinary freedom of movement. Yet even as Britain’s global hegemony made it possible for evangelicals like the Carvossos to make the whole world their parish, they challenged the economic opportunism that justified the imperial state. They were neither anti-business nor anti-Imperial, but they did imagine themselves as cultural outsiders, and as critics of the impersonal, profit maximizing rationality so characteristic of nineteenth century business.
I. The Atlantic Economy
- Armitage, D. and M. J. Braddick. The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
- Coclanis, P. A. The Atlantic Economy During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Organization, Operation, Practice, and Personnel . Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005.
- Davis, R. The Rise of the Atlantic Economies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1973.
- Gauci, P. Emporium of the World: the Merchants of London 1660-1800. New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007.
- Matson, C. D. Merchants & Empire: Trading in Colonial New York. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
- McKendrick, N., J. Brewer, et al. The Birth of a Consumer Society: the Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England . Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
- Morgan, K. Bristol and the Atlantic Trade in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
- Price, J. M. Overseas Trade and Trader: Essays on Some Commercial, Financial, and Political Challenges Facing British Atlantic Merchants, 1600-1775. Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, 1996.
- Rabb, T. K. Enterprise & Empire; Merchant and Gentry Investment in the Expansion of England, 1575-1630 . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967.
- Shammas, C. The Pre-Industrial Consumer in England and America. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.
- Steele, I. K. The English Atlantic, 1675-1740: An Exploration of Communication and Community . New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
- Walvin, J. Fruits of Empire: Exotic Produce and British Taste, 1660-1800 . New York: New York University Press, 1997.
II. Merchants and their Societies
- Balleisen, Edward J. Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
- Beckert, S. The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
- Benson, J. and L. Ugolini. A Nation of Shopkeepers: Five Centuries of British Retailing . New York: I.B. Tauris, 2003.
- Dalzell, R. F. (1987). Enterprising Elite: the Boston Associates and the World they Made . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987.
- Davidoff, L. and C. Hall Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 . New York: Routledge, 2002.
- Devine, Thomas. The Tobacco Lords: a Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activities, c. 1790-90 . Edinburgh, Donald, 1975.
- Doerflinger, T. M. A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia . Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
- Earle, P. The Making of the English Middle Class: Business, Society, and Family Life in London, 1660-1730 . Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989.
- Haggerty, S. The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 1760-1810: Men, Women, and the Distribution of Goods . Boston: Brill, 2006.
- Hancock, D. Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735-1785 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- Hunt, M. R. The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender, and the Family in England, 1680-1780 . Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996.
- Laird, Pamela. Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2006.
- Milne, G. J. Trade and Traders in mid-Victorian Liverpool: Mercantile Business and the Making of a World Port . Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2000.
- Wallace Anthony, Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution . New York: Norton, 1980.
- Wilson, R. G. (1971). Gentlemen Merchants: the Merchant Community in Leeds, 1700-1830 . Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1971.
III. The Changing Corporation
- Chandler, A. D. The Visible Hand: the Managerial Revolution in American Business . Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press. 1977.
- Chandler, A. D. and T. K. McCraw. The Essential Alfred Chandler: Essays toward a Historical Theory of Big Business . Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1988.
- Chapman, S. D. Merchant Enterprise in Britain: from the Industrial Revolution to World War I . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
- Cochran, T. C. Frontiers of Change: Early Industrialism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
- Cochran, T. C. and W. Miller. The Age of Enterprise: A Social History of Industrial America . New York: Harper, 1961.
- Gersick, K. E. Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business . Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1997.
- Haeger, J. D. The Investment Frontier: New York Businessmen and the Economic Development of the Old Northwest . Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981.
- Haeger, J. D. John Jacob Astor, Business and Finance in the Early Republic . Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991.
- Kirby, M. W. and M. B. Rose. Business Enterprise in Modern Britain: From the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century . New York: Routledge, 1994.
- McCraw, T. K. Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.
- Payne, P. L. British Entrepreneurship in the Nineteenth Century. London: Macmillan, 1974.
- Porter, G. The Rise of Big Business, 1860-1920. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1992.
- Scranton, P. Proprietary Capitalism: the Textile Manufacture at Philadelphia, 1800-1885 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
- Scranton, P. Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925 . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.
- Wiener, M. J. English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.