Proposal preview

Transnational business encounters in the twentieth century: informal company networks, cartels and business interest associations compared

“People of the same trade seldom meet together,” wrote Adam Smith in 1776, “Even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The literature on cartels, both at national and international levels, has been prolix in showing that Smith was often right. Conspiracy and cartels are not, however, the only possible motivation for or the only possible result of national or transnational encounters among businessmen. The notion of encounter is here—purposely—loosely defined as channels through which economic elites and companies exchange information and coordinate with each other, fulfilling a mixture of economic, political and social purposes. Such encounters can occur in different spaces and can take different forms, which can sometimes be informal, such as clubs and sociable or philanthropic events and which can be based on family networks. They can also, of course, show themselves in more formal business associations or cartels among firms and businessmen.

The aim of this session is to investigate the different forms transnational encounters took among business elites in the 20th century. Unlike national business networks, their transnational counterparts remain a little-known aspect of the global economy. As a case in point, transnational business associations remain a sort of terra incognita—although the extended literature on business associations founded in relation to the process of European integration around the 1950s sheds light on important dimensions of the phenomenon. Important associations such as the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Industrial Employers (both founded in the aftermath of World War I and still active today) have been very little studied.

The different contributors to this panel investigate specific types of encounter—international business interest associations, cartels, family networks, transnational infrastructures, informal clubs or associations as well as networks among boards of directors. All of these contributions investigate the formation and the persistence of different types of encounters for firms and businessmen who use different channels of communication. What was the difference between national and transnational encounters? Did all types of encounters develop during the same period? What was the impact of specific events (wars) on different types of transnational encounters? Did some type of encounters have a broader geographical scope than others? Were they all centered on the same regions (Europe, the USA) or were some more global in scope? What was their contribution to the different waves of globalization during the 20th century? What was the role of specific sectors such as the financial sector?

The comparison of different case studies will help to assess, along time and in different contexts, the contribution of these diverse transnational business networks to the functioning and development of the global economy.

Organizer(s)

  • Neil Rollings University of Glasgow Neil.Rollings@glasgow.ac.uk
  • Pierre Eichenberger University of Zurich pierre.eichenberger@fsw.uzh.ch

Session members

  • Irene Anastasiadou, Technical University of Berlin
  • Marco Bertilorenzi , Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Thomas David, University of Lausanne
  • Pierre Eichenberger, University of Zurich
  • Stéphanie Ginalski, Universitiy of Lausanne
  • Susie Pak, St. John’s University
  • Neil Rollings, University of Glasgow
  • Gerarda Westerhuis , University of Utrecht
  • Lin-chun WU, National Taiwan Normal University
  • Felisini Daniela, University of Rome Tor Vergata

Discussant(s)

  • Jeffrey Fear University of Glasgow

Papers

Panel abstract

The aim of this session is to investigate the different forms that transnational encounters took among business elites in the 20th century. The notion of encounter is here—purposely—loosely defined as channels through which economic elites and companies exchange information and coordinate with each other, fulfilling a mixture of economic, political and social purposes. The different contributors investigate specific types of encounter such as international business interest associations, cartels, infrastructures, networks among boards of directors, Foreign direct investments, informal clubs, as well as family and friendship networks. Each contribution investigates the formation and the persistence of some form of encounters for firms and businessmen who use different channels of coordination. The comparison of different case studies will help to assess, over time and in different contexts, the contribution of these diverse transnational business encounters to the functioning and development of the global economy.

1st half

Transnational Business Associations

Neil Rollings

One of the trends in transnational history has been the shift from the nation-state to consideration of the role of transnational non-governmental organisations and on the role of experts (often scientific or engineering). This has been true both of those with a global perspective as well as those concentrating more on European developments. Business and transnational business associations are usually missing or only in the background of these accounts. This paper aims to put them closer to the centre of the stage by exploring their development from the late nineteenth century and the business perspective as one that starts to fill the gap between the history of transnational NGOs and that of the nation-state.

One of the trends in transnational history has been the shift from the nation-state to consideration of the role of transnational non-governmental organisations and on the role of experts (often scientific or engineering). This has been true both of those with a global perspective as well as those concentrating more on European developments. Business and transnational business associations are usually missing or only in the background of these accounts. This paper aims to put them closer to the centre of the stage by exploring their development from the late nineteenth century and the business perspective as one that starts to fill the gap between the history of transnational NGOs and that of the nation-state.

Merchants of Peace”? The International Chamber of Commerce, 1920-2000

Thomas David, Pierre Eichenberger

The paper presents the first results of a research project investigating the history of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the twentieth century. Based on an extended research in archives of companies and business associations in Asia, in Europe and in the USA, the paper investigates whether the ICC can be seen as a crucible in the emergence of a transnational capitalist class. Our investigation is based on a prosopographic study of the Presidents (all presidents of the ICC over a century, N=43) and the members of the Executive Committee of the ICC (about 15 to 20 people) on six dates over the century: 1923, 1938, 1948, 1967, 1980 and 2000 (N=113).

The paper presents the first results of a research project investigating the history of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the twentieth century. Based on an extended research in archives of companies and business associations in Asia, in Europe and in the USA, the paper investigates whether the ICC can be seen as a crucible in the emergence of a transnational capitalist class. Our investigation is based on a prosopographic study of the Presidents (all presidents of the ICC over a century, N=43) and the members of the Executive Committee of the ICC (about 15 to 20 people) on six dates over the century: 1923, 1938, 1948, 1967, 1980 and 2000 (N=113).

Cosmopolitan capitalism around 1910

Thomas David, Stéphanie Ginalski

Globalization has led to important debates concerning the recent emergence of a transnational capitalist class, opening stimulating theoretical and methodological reflections. In particular, Social Networks Analysis (SNA) has been fruitfully used to show the emergence of a growing transnational corporate network linking the largest multinational firms across the world. However, globalization is not a new phenomenon as the economy was already highly internationalized on the eve of the First World War. Did a transnational corporate network exist around 1910? We address this research question in our paper. In this contribution, we identify the largest 125 companies across the world around 1910 and their board of directors. We proceed then in two steps. First, we look at the proportion of foreigners in each firm and, second, we draw a SNA to see if transnational connections through common directors among firms existed at that time. Our results show that there were only...

Globalization has led to important debates concerning the recent emergence of a transnational capitalist class, opening stimulating theoretical and methodological reflections. In particular, Social Networks Analysis (SNA) has been fruitfully used to show the emergence of a growing transnational corporate network linking the largest multinational firms across the world. However, globalization is not a new phenomenon as the economy was already highly internationalized on the eve of the First World War. Did a transnational corporate network exist around 1910? We address this research question in our paper. In this contribution, we identify the largest 125 companies across the world around 1910 and their board of directors. We proceed then in two steps. First, we look at the proportion of foreigners in each firm and, second, we draw a SNA to see if transnational connections through common directors among firms existed at that time. Our results show that there were only a few transnational connections. As a consequence, we suggest that further research should include firms from smaller but highly internationalized countries.

China and America. Business, Technology and Networks,1914-1941

Lin-Chun Wu

This paper titled “China and America: Business, technology and Networks”, studies the activities of American enterprises, technology, related businessmen organizations and engineering groups in China after the outbreak of the First World War, and explains how these activities helped establishing the connections between China and the Modern World until the Pacific War, the connected networks had to be suspended. Using multi-archives to examine China's major attempts at internationalization, this paper focuses on the following issues: 1. Why the WWI offered the great opportunity for Chinese-American business relations? 2.The big progress of multinational corporation in China and the booming of Chinese native enterprise. 3.Entrepreneurs networks: the Chinese native commercial association and its relations with the American commercial association. 4. Engineers networks: standardization, engineering the states and China‟s Internationalization.

This paper titled “China and America: Business, technology and Networks”, studies the activities of American enterprises, technology, related businessmen organizations and engineering groups in China after the outbreak of the First World War, and explains how these activities helped establishing the connections between China and the Modern World until the Pacific War, the connected networks had to be suspended. Using multi-archives to examine China's major attempts at internationalization, this paper focuses on the following issues: 1. Why the WWI offered the great opportunity for Chinese-American business relations? 2.The big progress of multinational corporation in China and the booming of Chinese native enterprise. 3.Entrepreneurs networks: the Chinese native commercial association and its relations with the American commercial association. 4. Engineers networks: standardization, engineering the states and China‟s Internationalization.

2nd half

Iron Silk Roads. Global Encounters in the Rail Sector, 1949 - 1974

Irene Anastasiadou

The proposed paper focuses on an analysis of how regional and non - regional actors came together within the context of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE, 1947 to 1974) and discussed technical work, focusing on the establishment of a transnational network of transport and communications in South East Asia (ECAFE region) in the years 1947 to 1974. Thematically the paper is focused on the work of the ECAFE transport and communications committee to construct an overland transport corridor that would bring freight traffic in containers from Singapore to Istanbul, the so – called Southern Trans – Asian railway in the years 1967 to 1974. It advances two main theses: firstly, ECAFE officials who worked in the field of transport and communications endorsed a transnational regional perspective and considered a transnational approach to transport and communications as crucial to the economic development of the...

The proposed paper focuses on an analysis of how regional and non - regional actors came together within the context of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE, 1947 to 1974) and discussed technical work, focusing on the establishment of a transnational network of transport and communications in South East Asia (ECAFE region) in the years 1947 to 1974. Thematically the paper is focused on the work of the ECAFE transport and communications committee to construct an overland transport corridor that would bring freight traffic in containers from Singapore to Istanbul, the so – called Southern Trans – Asian railway in the years 1967 to 1974. It advances two main theses: firstly, ECAFE officials who worked in the field of transport and communications endorsed a transnational regional perspective and considered a transnational approach to transport and communications as crucial to the economic development of the region of South East Asia. Technocracy was an important constituent element of ECAFE’s work in this specific sector, namely the sector of transport and communications, since the early years of the inception and works of the committee. The concept of ‘development’ becomes here a key concept as well in understanding interventions from non - regional actors in the region of South East Asia in the years of the non-alignment movement. In this context, a transnational network of actors from countries from within and outside the region of South East Asia was established. The paper will discuss how such work did bring into closer, lasting collaboration regional and non-regional actors from the region of South East Asia, namely the ECAFE member countries and international organisation such as the International Union of Railways based in Paris. Furthermore, it will explore how, despite the apolitical nature in the rhetoric of the actors involved, when we consider UN membership, we come to useful insights on how the global political context and especially the context of the Global Cold War did significantly impact work on the conception of transport corridors of a global significance and scale in the post WWII years. The paper is based on extensive research in the archives of the United Nations in Geneva and New York, the archive of the International Union of Railways (Paris), and the historical archive of the Société National des Chemins de Fer (Le Mans, France).

Crafting futures. The City’s merchant milieux and the European commodity market during the 1970s

Marco Bertilorenzi

Since the adhesion of the UK to the European Community in 1973, the Commodity markets that historically had their center in London started a dialogue with the Anti-trust of the European Commission. The Commission inspected the London Commodity Exchange Associations and helped them to re-define the rules that governed the produce exchanges. This confrontation was held during a period that coincided with the on-going dismantling of commodity control schemes (both cartels and intergovernmental schemes): this paper attempts to explain that, while on the one hand the commodity exchanges acted collectively to lobby the European Institution, the Commission accepted their financial rules (the futures) as best practices to conceive the global trade.

Since the adhesion of the UK to the European Community in 1973, the Commodity markets that historically had their center in London started a dialogue with the Anti-trust of the European Commission. The Commission inspected the London Commodity Exchange Associations and helped them to re-define the rules that governed the produce exchanges. This confrontation was held during a period that coincided with the on-going dismantling of commodity control schemes (both cartels and intergovernmental schemes): this paper attempts to explain that, while on the one hand the commodity exchanges acted collectively to lobby the European Institution, the Commission accepted their financial rules (the futures) as best practices to conceive the global trade.

The Disappearance of the Ford IPO Syndicate of 1956 & The Diversification of American Finance

Susie J. Pak

In the mid-twentieth century, there were hundreds of investment banks in North America, many of which began as private family partnerships. This paper investigates what happened to those firms and is based on an empirical dataset that reconstructs the genealogies of 205 banks, who underwrote the Ford Motor Company historic IPO in 1956 and represented the top U.S. and Canadian investment banks in the mid-twentieth century. Using the Ford syndicate as a reference point, the paper studies the American investment banking community since that time and analyzes how factors such as technological development, banking deregulation and the entry of European, Canadian, and Asian commercial banks in the American market, and the diversification of the financial community have or have not changed the personal and social relations that have historically tied investment bankers to each other, to other firms, to the state, and to their clients.

In the mid-twentieth century, there were hundreds of investment banks in North America, many of which began as private family partnerships. This paper investigates what happened to those firms and is based on an empirical dataset that reconstructs the genealogies of 205 banks, who underwrote the Ford Motor Company historic IPO in 1956 and represented the top U.S. and Canadian investment banks in the mid-twentieth century. Using the Ford syndicate as a reference point, the paper studies the American investment banking community since that time and analyzes how factors such as technological development, banking deregulation and the entry of European, Canadian, and Asian commercial banks in the American market, and the diversification of the financial community have or have not changed the personal and social relations that have historically tied investment bankers to each other, to other firms, to the state, and to their clients.

Projecting Europe or defending from Europe? CEEP experience in 1960-80

Daniela Felisini

This paper will focus on the history of C.E.E.P. (Centre Européen de l’Entreprise Publique- European Centre for State-owned Enterprises) in the years 1960-1980. Established in 1961 by the managers of French and Italian State-owned enterprises, with the tepid participation of the Germans, it aimed at representing SOEs in the European integration process. At first glance CEEP, as other associations born in the Sixties, could be considered as a merely defensive body, aiming to safeguard the interests of SOEs facing an increasing international competition. But at a more accurate historical exploration, CEEP represented also an important space for transnational encounters on business and economic cultures and for debate on the construction of Europe. CEEP members debated crucial issues, as the role of the State in promoting technological innovation and the autonomy of SOEs managers; they compared managerial styles and organizational practices, trying to define European ones.

This paper will focus on the history of C.E.E.P. (Centre Européen de l’Entreprise Publique- European Centre for State-owned Enterprises) in the years 1960-1980. Established in 1961 by the managers of French and Italian State-owned enterprises, with the tepid participation of the Germans, it aimed at representing SOEs in the European integration process. At first glance CEEP, as other associations born in the Sixties, could be considered as a merely defensive body, aiming to safeguard the interests of SOEs facing an increasing international competition. But at a more accurate historical exploration, CEEP represented also an important space for transnational encounters on business and economic cultures and for debate on the construction of Europe. CEEP members debated crucial issues, as the role of the State in promoting technological innovation and the autonomy of SOEs managers; they compared managerial styles and organizational practices, trying to define European ones.