Friday, April 29, 2016

Over the Counter: Issue No. 24

A round-up of recent material of interest from around the web:
Jane Humphries of the University of Oxford presented the Ellen McArthur Lectures at Cambridge this year. Her topic for the four-lecture series was "Eve Also Delved: Gendering Economic History"; synopses of the talks are available on the website.

A recent Paris Review posted an essay on "The Entrepreneurial Kafka," detailing a plan to make money by publishing "On the Cheap" travel guides.

Digital Commonwealth: Massachusetts Collections Online recently featured its collection of colorful circus posters. Many other curated collections can be accessed on the Digital Commonwealth website.

Cornell University has announced a major project, "Freedom on the Move," which will create "a database that digitizes, preserves, organizes, and enables analysis of all surviving runaway ads from the historical period of North American slavery.

The Yale Center for the Study of Representative Institutions recently held a conference (on April 15-16) on "Taking Stock of the State in Nineteenth-Century America." Participants included many members of the business history community, including Stephen Mihm, Julia Ott, Richard John, and Naomi Lamoreaux; a poster with the event schedule is available here.

The University of Maryland Library has a large selection of historic postcards online. The collection represents a small sampling of the approximately 20,000 postcards available in the National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection. The library will continue to add images to the collection.

Illustrator and writer Patrick Reynolds recently created a series of cartoons about black barbers based on Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom by Douglas Bristol of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Bill Rankin and Michael Ralph have created a map showing slaves for whom their owners purchased insurance before the Civil War; there is also a graph of the occupations of the insured and a link to the raw data, collected by Michael Ralph of NYU.

In honor of the April IRS income tax filing deadline in the United States, historian Robin Einhorn of the University of California Berkeley has written a brief history of the income tax for AHA Today.

A group has formed to investigate the history of apprenticeship in early modern Europe. The primary organizers are Patrick Wallis of the London School of Economics and Ruben Schalk of the University of Utrecht. The next workshop in the series will occur on July 3-4, 2016, and will feature Joel Mokyr speaking on "Clans, Guilds, and Markets: Apprenticeship Institutions and Growth in the Pre-Industrial Economy." 

Long-time BHC member Edwin J. Perkins was featured in a recent American Historical Association "Member Spotlight." Perkins is retired, an emeritus professor at the University of Southern California.

The National Records of Scotland, in collaboration with the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Business History in Scotland (CBHS), is hosting a one-day conference on the theme of using digital records for business history research. The conference will be held in Edinburgh on May 9, 2016.

"Goin' North: Stories from the First Great Migration to Philadelphia" is an oral history website created by students in Janneken Smucker and Charles Hardy's course at West Chester University. For full details on the evolution and sources for the website, please see the "About" section.

The "Playing with History" physical exhibit at Oxford's Weston Library is highlighted in a fascinating look at vintage board games that focused on historical events such as women's suffrage, the Boer and Crimean wars, and trade in the British Empire.

The Atlantic published an essay by Ilana E. Strauss calling into question the existence of barter economies, "The Myth of the Barter Economy."

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, located in West London, and its founder Robert Opie were featured recently in The Guardian.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Digital Resource: Voyageur Database

The Descent of the Fraser River, 1808, from a color drawing by C. W. Jefferys
Those researching the economic history of early Canada may find useful the Voyageur Database, which includes data from approximately 35,900 fur trade contracts signed in front of Montreal notaries between 1714 and 1830. It is currently the single largest collection of data regarding the contracts signed by participants in the Montreal fur trade. The information collected from the contracts includes: family names, parishes of origin, hiring company, length of contract, destination(s), advances and wages, supplies, conditions of hire, the name of the notary, date of signing, and miscellaneous notes. As the website explains, "The database provides information on a group that was mostly illiterate and thus previously difficult to document and write about. The Voyageur Database documents the expansion of a continental system of trade that had a profound effect on peoples and communities, throughout the continent."
     The project director is Nicole St-Onge of the University of Ottawa; oRbert Englebert of the University of Saskatchewan is assistant director. Their efforts build on the initial labors of Alfred Fortier, executive director of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface (1990-2002), who created the database that became the starting point of the larger project.

Monday, April 25, 2016

CHORD Workshop: “Retailing, Distribution, and the Family”

The next CHORD (Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution) Workshop will take place on May 24, 2016, at the University of Wolverhampton. The theme is "Retailing, Distribution, and the Family." The program, including abstracts of the presentations, is available on the Workshop website. Readers will also find registration and other useful information there.
     Questions may be addressed to Laura Ugolini at

Friday, April 22, 2016

CFP: “Making Modern Disability” at Hagley

"Making Modern Disability: Histories of Disability, Design, and Technology" will meet at the Hagley Museum and Library on October 28, 2016, to explore the history of modern design and technology with regard to disability. According to the call for papers,
While devices adapted to the needs of people with disabilities can be found throughout human history, industrialization created distinctive circumstances for the material lives of the disabled. On one hand, people with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities were often those who struggled most to adapt to modern material life with its rationalized work routines, standardized products, and inaccessible architecture. On the other hand, modern design culture was one of improvement. Designers, architects, and engineers proposed ways to adapt products and sites for users of varying abilities, while people with disabilities and their families found creative ways to improve access for themselves. Legal and policy efforts such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also spurred change in the 20th century as they defined access to architecture and technology as a civil right.
Organizers are looking for papers that examine specific histories of material culture and disability, considering how technology both responded to and defined disability in modernity. Papers should be historical in nature and focused on the modern period (approximately 1750-present). A focus on archival material and object examples are especially appreciated given Hagley’s rich offerings pertinent to this topic, including the papers of Marc Harrison and Richard Hollerith, two American industrial designers who promoted the principle of Universal Design.
    For a more detailed description of possible topics, please see the full call for papers.
    Interested scholars should submit abstracts of 300 words accompanied by a 1-page CV to Carol Lockman at by May 1, 2016. Travel support and lodging will be provided for presenters at the conference.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BHC 2016 Book Prizes Announced

At its recent annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, the Business History Conference announced the recipients of its two major book prizes for 2016.

The Hagley Book Prize, awarded jointly by the Hagley Museum and Library and the Business History Conference to the best book in business history (broadly defined) written in English and published during the two years prior to the award, was conferred jointly on Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) by Jonathan Coopersmith of Texas A&M University, and on From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), by Vicki Howard of Hartwick College.

The Ralph Gomory Prize, made possible by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, "recognizes historical work on the effects of business enterprises on the economic conditions of the countries in which they operate." The 2016 recipient is Ensuring America’s Health: The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System (Cambridge University Press, 2015) by Christy Ford Chapin, University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Monday, April 18, 2016

BHC Doctoral Colloquium Call for Applicants, 2017

The 2017 Business History Conference (BHC) Doctoral Colloquium in Business History will be held in conjunction with the BHC annual meeting. This prestigious workshop, funded by Cambridge University Press, will take place in Denver, Colorado, on Wednesday, March 29 and Thursday, March 30, 2017. Typically limited to ten students, the colloquium is open to early-stage doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research within the broad field of business history, from any relevant discipline. Topics (see past examples) may range from the early modern era to the present and explore societies across the globe. Participants work intensively with a distinguished group of BHC-affiliated scholars (including at least two BHC officers), discussing dissertation proposals, relevant literatures and research strategies, and career trajectories. Applications are due by November 15, 2016, via email to and should include: a statement of interest; CV; preliminary or final dissertation prospectus (10-15 pages); and a letter of support from the dissertation supervisor (or prospective supervisor).
     Questions about the colloquium should be sent to its director, Edward Balleisen, All participants receive a stipend that partially defrays travel costs to the annual meeting. Applicants will receive notification of the selection committee’s decisions by December 20, 2016.
     General questions regarding the BHC’s 2017 annual meeting may be sent to Secretary-Treasurer Roger Horowitz,

Friday, April 15, 2016

CFP: Business History Conference 2017

The 2017 annual meeting of the Business History Conference will be held in Denver, Colorado, on March 30-April 1. The theme of the meeting is "Civilizations." In the words of the program committee--Susie Pak (chair), Eric Hilt, Caitlin Rosenthal, Lars Heide, Jessica Burch, and Walter Friedman (BHC president):
From the House of Medici to Japan, Inc., business and commerce have shaped society and public life. Eighteenth-century social theorists such as Montesquieu and Smith described the “civilizing” process of long-distance trade networks in agricultural staples and luxury goods in the transition from feudalism to commercialism. In the early 20th century, the U.S. was often seen as a nation where businesspeople, with their ambitions and innovations, had even come to define society. In 1931 James Truslow Adams characterized the United States as a “business civilization,” in which “most of the energy, ability, and ambition of the country has found its outlet, if not its satisfaction, in business.” More recently, with rising globalization and financialization, observers in many countries—Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, and China—have noted, with alarm or excitement, the role high-tech entrepreneurs and international bankers have played in shaping social norms and policy. In 2009 an economic summit in China explored the “Chinese approach to a new business civilization.” The theme of “civilizations” is meant to suggest broad connections between business and the way of life that characterizes particular regions or countries.
Although presentations on the theme are encouraged, papers addressing all other topics will receive equal consideration by the program committee in accordance with BHC policy. The program committee will consider both individual papers and entire panels. Individual paper proposals should include a one-page (300 word) abstract and one-page curriculum vitae (CV). Panel proposals should include a cover letter stating the rationale for the panel and the name of its contact person; one-page (300 word) abstract and author’s CV for each paper; and a list of preferred panel chairs and commentators with contact information. To submit a proposal, use the link Submit a Paper/Panel Proposal on the meeting homepage. The deadline for receipt of all proposals is October 3, 2016.
     For additional information about the BHC annual meeting, please see the full call for papers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Appalachian Spring Conference Program Available

The 11th annual Appalachian Spring Conference in World History and Economics will take place this coming weekend, April 16-17, at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, with opening sessions on Friday afternoon. The theme of the meeting is "Institutions and Development." Those unable to attend will find the program available on the meeting's website, with links to many of the papers being presented.
    The keynote address will be given this year by James Robinson of the University of Chicago; his topic is "Living with Leviathan."
    Readers can also follow the conference, which is organized by Jari Eloranta of Appalachian State, on Facebook.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Conference: “Rethinking Textiles: Yorkshire Edition”

Taking place at Leeds City Museum on April 21, 2016, Rethinking Textiles: Yorkshire Edition will present new approaches to the history of textiles and the Industrial Revolution among different interpreters.
    Speakers from academia, museums, archives and public organizations will address a wide range of topics, all themed around Yorkshire’s rich textile heritage. The event will include an opportunity for a selection of attendees to share current work in a short set of lightening talks, plus time for delegates to explore Leeds City Museum. The program is available here.
    The meeting is open to anyone with an interest in textile history. There is no fee to attend but registration is required, as places are limited. Check here for registration, and email if additional information is needed.
    This workshop is a collaboration between two major research projects at the University of Leeds: Rethinking Textiles and The Enterprise of Culture. "Rethinking Textiles" is a two-year collaboration between Barbara Hahn of Texas Tech University and Regina Lee Blaszczyk at the University of Leeds to launch an effort to re-contextualize the history of the British Industrial Revolution. The event is funded by the Marie Curie People Programme of the European Commission.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Research Position: University of Michigan

The Population Studies Center (PSC) at the Institute of Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan is searching for a full-time Research Manager to assist with a variety of projects in economic history, economic demography, labor economics, and economic policy. The Research Manager will work with the PI on the LIFE-M project (a large-scale, NSF-funded project to describe the evolution of birth rates, marriage patterns, and longevity over the 20th century), an NIH -funded project on community health centers (, and other projects relating to the War on Poverty and Great Society.
     The primary responsibility of the Research Manager will be to assist the PI with managing a large project team, submitting research proposals, creating and maintaining IRBs, overseeing the use of restricted data, planning board meetings, maintaining organized and updated records for the project team’s multiple administrative and research processes, and assisting with other professional activities. The ideal candidate would have the secondary responsibility of assisting with research. This might include managing data entry, merging, cleaning, and documenting data in Excel or Stata, conducting independent qualitative research projects or library research, drafting memos, blog posts, or research summaries, and assisting with annual research progress reports.
      The PSC is seeking applicants who are excited to work collaboratively in an innovative, fast paced environment where they have opportunities to take initiative to solve new and interesting problems. For more specifics, and to apply, see the job ad posted here:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Papers Available for “The Maintainers” Conference

"The Maintainers: A Conference" will take place at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, on April 7-9, 2016. Even those not attending can enjoy the fruits of the meeting, as the papers are freely available online. Most of them have now been posted, linked from the conference program. According to the introductory website, "All [participants] share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world. Presentations will cover a wide variety of technologies and practices, including software, spaceflight, trolleys, meteorology, digital archives, and the politics of funding for infrastructure." More information is available on the conference website.

Program: Columbia Conference in Honor of Alan Brinkley

On April 15-16, 2016, Columbia University is holding a conference, "Protest, Politics, and Ideas in the American Century," in honor of Alan Brinkley. The conference schedule, which is available here, features many prominent historians, including Eric Foner, Elizabeth Blackmar, Mae Ngai, Gary Gerstle, Alice Kessler-Harris, Kenneth T. Jackson, and Lizabeth Cohen. For more information, please contact the conference organizers, Mason Williams of Williams College (, David Greenberg of Rutgers University (, or Moshik Temkin of Harvard's Kennedy School (
Update: 4/17: Presentations are available on the History Department's Facebook page.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Enterprise & Society: ToC for March Issue

The March 2016 issue of Enterprise & Society, the journal of the Business History Conference, contains the following articles:
Juha Kansikas, "Career Paths in Institutional Business Elites: Finnish Family Firms from 1762–2010"
Mike French, " 'Slowly Becoming Sales Promotion Men?': Negotiating the Career of the Sales Representative in Britain, 1920s–1970s"
Leslie Hannah and Mokoto Kasuya, "Twentieth-Century Enterprise Forms: Japan in Comparative Perspective"
Melih Yeşilbağ, "Changing Hegemonic Strategies of Business in Turkey before and after the Neo-Liberal Turn: From Defense to Counter-Attack"
Paul Mokrzycki Renfro, "Keeping Children Safe Is Good Business: The Enterprise of Child Safety in the Age of Reagan"
Full access requires a BHC membership, but abstracts are freely available on the Cambridge University Press website.