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Archive for the 'History' Category

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Horror, Disbelief, and Shame

Struggle on Their Minds

“Rather than simply humanize black Americans as did Du Bois, Wells described how black dehumanization was less an a priori truth and more a meticulous white supremacist social construction. Highlighting the intensity and methodical accuracy with which they dismembered Hose’s body piecemeal also reflected the wish to excise black people from humanity. Publicly destroying black bodies communicated white anxiety about black equality.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. For the final post of the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s chapter on Ida Wells and the antilynching movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Huey Newton, the Black Panthers, and the Decolonization of America

Struggle on Their Minds

“[The Black Panthers'] view that political power was more important than ethics and that freedom would be best secured through the factional competition of competing interests extended Madison’s arguments. Their conviction that public action centered on the common good needed to be divorced from moral considerations resonated with American civic republicans. Or, to put it differently, the Panthers thought politics needed to be conducted by political moralists rather than moral politicians.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s chapter on the political and philosophical thoughts of Huey Newton and the Black Panthers.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“[This book's aim] is to provide an intellectual history of when resistance to racial inequality was palpable in key African American political movements. If resistance is at once an activity and an experience that resists comprehensive analysis because it has no singular essence—if there is no way ever to develop fully a philosophical definition of the practice itself—we should study moments in which what occurs can clearly be called ‘resistance.’” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s introduction, in which he lays out the project for his book and explains what he means by “resistance” (and why the idea is such an important one).

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“Fred Moten memorably wrote that the ‘history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.’ Alex Zamalin reaffirms this assertion through exquisite examination of narratives of resistance—not merely protest—by David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Huey Newton, and Angela Davis. Zamalin’s deft treatise demonstrates how Afro-modern political thought refashions our fundamental understandings of resistance and the attendant ideals of democracy and freedom.” — Neil Roberts, Williams College

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The Historical Case for Asia Strategy

By More Than Providence

“Is the United States capable of grand strategy? Two centuries of American engagement with Asia and the Pacific strongly suggest that the answer is yes. American grand strategy has been episodic and inefficient, but in the aggregate it has been effective.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the conclusion.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Introducing By More Than Providence

By More Than Providence

“Over the course of two hundred years, the United States has in fact developed a distinctive strategic approach toward Asia and the Pacific. There have been numerous instances of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and insufficient harnessing of national will and means. There have been strategic miscalculations— particularly before Pearl Harbor, on the Yalu River, and in Vietnam. In the aggregate, however, the United States has emerged as the preeminent power in the Pacific not by providence alone but through the effective (if not always efficient) application of military, diplomatic, economic, and ideational tools of national power to the problems of Asia.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the introduction.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Michael Green on Rex Tillerson’s Beijing Visit

By More Than Providence

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. In a recent appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition, Michael Green tells Steve Inskeep about what the Chinese think of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as Tillerson meets with Chinese officials as part of a trip to Asia.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Book Giveaway! By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783

By More Than Providence

“Michael Green’s magisterial study is a timely and insightful reminder of the deep and long-standing ties between East Asia and the United States, and the complex interplay between our economic and security interests, and our values, a dynamic which has shaped US policy for two and a half centuries. It is an indispensable point of reference for students and policy makers seeking to understand a critical region where history casts a long shadow, notwithstanding the extraordinary changes of recent years.” — James Steinberg, Syracuse University and former deputy secretary of state

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

A Stroke of the Pen

Chow Chop Suey

“Forty years after the Johnson-Reed Act had slammed the door on immigration from most of the world, people had generally stopped expecting further chapters to unfold in the story of immigrant cooking. Not even culinary snobs had reason to suppose that the new law [the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965] would ever affect anybody’s ideas of what to have for dinner in Minneapolis, Tallahassee, Boise, Spokane, Houston, or New York.” — Anne Mendelson

This week, our featured book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey, by Anne Mendelson. To start the week’s feature off, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s prologue.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

The History of Chinese Food in the United States

Chow Chop Suey

“Wasn’t this sudden culinary coinage simply a travesty of honest Cantonese cuisine? Well, perhaps ‘travesty,’ but not ‘simply.’ The whole story is not at all simple. We would be wrongheaded to forget that chop suey and kindred inventions like American-style chow mein or foo young took on – and possess to this day — a vigorous life of their own in American culture. For more than a century they have given millions of white (and black) diners a pleasure not to be discredited by cavils about authenticity. By my lights, they represent a permanent enrichment of the American table, first accomplished by a community under siege.” — Anne Mendelson

This week, our featured book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey, by Anne Mendelson. Today, we are pleased to present an article on the intertwined history of Chinese immigrants and Chinese food in the United States.

The History of Chinese Food in the United States
By Anne Mendelson

“Go back to China!” a white woman screamed at New York Times deputy Metro editor Michael Luo during the homestretch of the 2016 presidential election. The taunt is vicious even now. But at one time in this country it often presaged not hateful stares but either deportation proceedings or homicidal violence.

Chinese entering California in the 1850s with hopes of gold or at least jobs soon found demagogues accusing them of malignantly undermining honest white workingmen’s wages. One result was a series of federal laws allowing Chinese manual laborers to be deported, after a year’s hard labor, unless they could produce official certificates of residency. Another was an eruption of arson and lynchings during the 1870s and ‘80s, frequently sanctioned by local authorities.

Cantonese-born fugitives from murderous xenophobia in the Far West not only founded the Chinatowns of the Midwest and the Eastern seaboard, but managed to invent an unexpected culinary novelty that white people called by the garbled name “chop suey.” For all its ignominious modern reputation, chop suey represented a pioneering gambit in American racial politics. It turned to surprising account a hated minority’s reputation as fine cooks.

One of the few things agreed on by both hostile and friendly Westerners was that, as an English newspaper correspondent stationed in China declared in 1857, “Every Chinaman has a natural aptitude for cookery.” A phenomenal talent for cooking to please white employers had earned Chinese men a niche as household servants even in Sinophobic California. Meanwhile, they cooked for themselves with great skill whenever possible, drawing on a supply network of ingredients imported from Hong Kong to San Francisco and later New York.

Refugees from lynch mobs began settling in New York’s old Five Points district at around 1870 and promptly founded restaurants serving Cantonese cuisine, widely regarded as China’s finest. Some white New Yorkers were intrigued enough to become regular chopstick-wielders at these eateries by the late 1880s.

Within a decade, the Chinese struck gold by carefully reading the dominant race’s preferences. They improvised an ingenious marriage between Cantonese-style stir-fried dishes and some striking effects inspired by their prior experience in cooking for white people. The winning formulas depended on plenty of sugar in glossy, starch-thickened sauces liberally laced with soy sauce and browning agents. The idea was to imitate roux-bound gravy from a Western-style roast while introducing supposedly “Oriental” touches.

White patrons joyously devoured the new dishes under such names as “chicken chop suey,” “beef chop suey,” or “shrimp chop suey.” These jumbled labels reflect linguistic cross-purposes. The Chinese characters for the same items indicate “chao [stir-fried] chicken,” “chao beef,” and so forth. But the English term “stir-fry” did not yet exist. The technique was unintelligible to people who had never seen the workings of a Chinese kitchen. Encountering the romanization “chow chop suey” (“chao mixed bits”) for a dish of stir-fried innards and offal, somebody cluelessly latched onto the last two words and ended up baptizing America’s first nationwide ethnic-crossover food craze.

With unerring instinct, Chinese restaurant cooks had fashioned a cuisine that appeared exotic and adventurous to the target audience while staying safely within a middlebrow white American frame of culinary-cultural reference. The combination of very rapidly prepared food – stir-frying is the ideal short-order cooking method – with atmospheric décor featuring Chinese lanterns or dragon motifs was an instant draw.

“Chop suey” caught on from coast to coast with a speed made possible by the new miracle of wire services distributing syndicated copy from big-city newspapers to the boondocks. By 1910 it was well on its way to being the stock-in-trade of Chinese restaurants in every metropolis, small city, and large town throughout the contiguous United States.

Wasn’t this sudden culinary coinage simply a travesty of honest Cantonese cuisine? Well, perhaps “travesty,” but not “simply.” The whole story is not at all simple. We would be wrongheaded to forget that chop suey and kindred inventions like American-style chow mein or foo young took on – and possess to this day — a vigorous life of their own in American culture. For more than a century they have given millions of white (and black) diners a pleasure not to be discredited by cavils about authenticity. By my lights, they represent a permanent enrichment of the American table, first accomplished by a community under siege.

At the height of “Go back to China!” rabble-rousing cloaked in the mantle of patriotic support for jobless native-born workers, an undaunted segment of the despised Chinese community in America responded by reaching across racial divides through the medium of food. The chop suey-style cuisine that it created may be more resoundingly American than Delmonico’s, the Golden Arches, or Trump Grill.

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

Introducing Chow Chop Suey

Chow Chop Suey

“It may seem unnecessary for a food historian to rehash events that have been abundantly chronicled by political and social historians. But I believe that readers of a book on Chinese American food will be well served by being asked to recognize these matters.” — Anne Mendelson

This week, our featured book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey, by Anne Mendelson. To start the week’s feature off, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction.

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey

Chow Chop Suey

Chow Chop Suey is an eye-opener, a book that will give everyone a deep appreciation of the exquisite skill required to produce authentic Chinese food and the sweep of history that brought Chinese cooking to America. Anne Mendelson’s prodigious research has given us a highly respectful, insightful, refreshing, wonderfully written, and utterly compelling account of the role and plight of Chinese restaurant workers in this country. I learned something new on every page.” — Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and author of Soda Politics

This week, our featured book is Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey, by Anne Mendelson. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Post-Fascism

Left-Wing Melancholia

This post is part of an ongoing series in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. Today, Enzo Traverso, author of Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory, argues that labelling Donald Trump a fascist is unhelpful, as “interpreting him through old categories [cannot] help us to understand the novelty he embodies”:

Post-Fascism
By Enzo Traverso

Is Donald Trump a fascist? Answering this question, frequently put in both Europe and the US, means speculating about what fascism would look like in the twenty-first century. Historical comparisons allow us to sketch analogies rather than homologies, and Trump is as far from classical fascism as Occupy Wall Street, los Indignados, and La nuit debout are from twentieth-century communism. This is a historical analogy, not a genealogy.

A few months ago, Robert O. Paxton, one of the most important historians of European fascism, ironically (and pertinently) affirmed that Trump probably never read any single book on Mussolini or Hitler. In other words, speaking of Trump’s fascism is not a matter of establishing a historical continuity. He does not come from this political tradition and this distinguishes him from most European far-right movements that come from this matrix, sometimes proudly claiming it—mostly in Central Europe—and sometimes trying to achieve respectability rejecting or distancing it, like the Front National of Marine Le Pen in France.

During his electoral campaign, Trump revealed many fascist traits: a charismatic conception of politics, authoritarianism, hatred for pluralism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and a populist style that considers citizens only as a crowd to mesmerize and mislead. His campaign reproduced some features of fascist anti-Semitism, which defined a mythical, ethnically homogeneous national community by opposing it to its enemies: for the Nazis this was the Jews, but Trump enlarged the spectrum, including Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and non-White immigrants. In Trump’s rhetoric, the “Establishment” reproduced the old anti-Semitic cliché of a virtuous community rooted in land and tradition opposed to the anonymous, corrupted, intellectual, and cosmopolitan metropolis. (more…)

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing

Crude Volatility

“While it is possible the unmanaged interplay of supply and demand will yield more stable prices in coming years and decades, it is more likely future trends will resemble the past, featuring surprising shifts, sustained imbalances, and upheaval.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. Today, we are happy to repost an article by Robert McNally that “>originally appeared in the Financial Times:

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing: For the first time in years, the global oil market is lacking a swing producer
By Robert McNally

Even in these hyper-partisan times, loathing for Opec still unites most Americans. Yet paradoxically, over four decades from the early 1930s to early 1970s, the United States was Opec, and much better at oil supply manipulation and price fixing than today’s Opec ever was.

Up until 1972, independent US oilmen and oil states like Texas acquiesced to heavyhanded government regulations over oil, imposing monthly quotas on producers. This was all done to vanquish chronic booms and busts that vexed the oil industry, consumers, investors, and officials.

This paradox bears directly on the epic, structural shift currently under way in the global oil market, with far-reaching repercussions not only for oil and energy, but also economic growth, security, and the environment. Wildly gyrating oil prices over the past decade mark the demise of Opec as an effective supply manager and the return of free crude oil markets. The resulting unwelcome and likely protracted return of boom-bust oil prices constitutes a major and under-appreciated financial, economic, and geopolitical risk to consumers, businesses, the incoming administration and governments worldwide. (more…)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Old Numbers, New Data

Crude Volatility

“I decided to write this book to explore more deeply how oil’s history can clarify recent trends and shed light on tomorrow’s path, and to present my findings to the general reader as well as the energy expert.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. In today’s post, we feature an excerpt from the preface to Crude Volatility, with some illuminating graphs. (Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Tackling this topic presented formidable challenges, not the least of which was getting good historical data and information. For “barrel counters,” the search for better data is a never-ending and arduous quest. Historical data on prices and spare production capacity—central to this book—are especially scarce and patchy. I am therefore delighted and proud that my able research assistant Fernando Ferreira and I were able to unearth historical data and present two novel data sets, neither of which (to my knowledge) existed until now.

The first data set is a continuous, market-based price series for U.S. crude prices extending back to 1859 and continuing to the present on a monthly basis. Constructing this series entailed digging up prices based on field quotations, exchange-traded pipeline certificates (a proxy for crude oil prices), prices paid by Standard Oil’s purchasing agency, and data from the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration.

The key issue here is frequency of the data. BP helpfully publishes historical crude oil prices back to 1859 on an annual basis. But annual averages fall short of illustrating boom-bust price trends as more frequent and dramatic price swings—daily, weekly, monthly—get lost in the annual average. Unless otherwise noted, all prices cited in this book, including this new monthly historical price series, are in nominal instead of real or inflation-adjusted terms. Using real prices would not change the story from a volatility perspective, but I decided to use nominal prices to better connect the prevailing historical narrative with price changes…

The second unique data set developed for this book is for U.S. spare production capacity extending back to 1940 and continuous data on U.S. and global spare capacity since 1955 (that is, including the Seven Sisters until the early 1970s and OPEC afterward). This entailed exhuming information from various government and industry reports and publications. Currently, EIA’s published OPEC spare production capacity extends back to 2003.

My goal is to contribute to our understanding of the economic and political forces that shaped oil prices in history so as to better understand them today and tomorrow. Whether I have succeeded I leave to you, dear reader, to judge…

(Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Oil Disruptions, Spare Capacity, and Crude Prices

Nominal Crude Oil Prices

Monthly Crude Oil Price Ranges

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

The Texas Paradox

Crude Volatility

“By beginning the story of oil prices with the birth of the industry, we can better appreciate why oil prices are naturally volatile and why that volatility has posed an enormous problem not only for the oil industry but broader economy, causing oilmen and officials to go to great lengths to stabilize oil prices.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction, in which McNally examines the uncomfortable relationship tension between our desire to avoid a situation where monopolies dictate oil prices and a situation where oil prices fluctuate wildly.

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices

Crude Volatility

“Robert McNally has written an excellent biography of a world-famous character, known for volatility and violent mood swings, sometimes reviled but always a player in the world economy and politics—the oil price. Insightful and timely, Crude Volatility explores the clash over many decades between “boom and bust” prices and the efforts to harness them. In the current market, McNally explains why volatility is likely to win out over stability—highly significant for what will remain the world’s most important commodity for many years to come.” — Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize and The Quest and Vice Chairman of IHS Markit

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Richard Plunz on Housing in New York City

A History of Housing, Richard Plunz

We conclude our week-long feature on New York City books with A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz, who recently appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the book.

In the interview, Plunz discussed the unique historical situation that New York City confronts today with a combination of a housing shortage and an affordability crisis. As Plunz explains, the efforts of Mayors Bloomberg and DeBlasio have largely been frustrated for a variety of political and economic reasons. With new little land in the City to build upon, solutions to the problem are somewhat elusive.

Plunz also talked about the future of public housing and ways in which neighborhood can become more integrated. Needless to say, the city’s most famous real-estate figure was also discussed and Plunz expressed skepticism that the president-elect would pay much attention to housing for those not in the upper classes.

Finally, Plunz considers his favorite part of the book, which was Bronx in the 1920s. It was during this period that many immigrants moved out of the Lower East Side and built great housing in the Bronx and created a vibrant community of associations and neighborhoods.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Rolling the Dice

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“To paraphrase Virgil, both fortune and misfortune tend to favor the bold. In other words, the surest route to avoiding misfortune is certainly not by starting one’s own business. Those who are motivated primarily by a fear of discomfort, uncertainty, and the like will find a safer way to earn a living. Of course, in many instances, such people will fare better economically over the long run than the perennial risk-taker. Nonetheless, those looking for the safe route are not likely to become entrepreneurs, successful or otherwise.” — Joe Carlen

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. For today’s post, Carlen discusses the traits that are most commonly shared by successful entrepreneurs throughout history.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship!

Rolling the Dice
By Joe Carlen

During a recent radio interview about A Brief History of Entrepreneurship, the host asked me about those traits that are most commonly found among successful entrepreneurs. Having recently written a book that traces entrepreneurship from the dawn of civilization to the nascent space tourism industry, three initial answers sprung to mind. In this piece, I will review each of them, and discuss my personal choice for the single most important trait shared by successful entrepreneurs.

Ingenuity? Certainly, some of history’s greatest entrepreneurs, especially those of recent centuries, were distinguished by their ingenuity. Yet, many more, equally successful, were not especially innovative, at least in the technological sense. Moreover, some of the most creative ones – like Samuel Crompton, the brilliant industrial innovator who failed to adequately protect his intellectual property – never attained significant financial success. Meanwhile, even some of today’s largest technology companies were not founded on particularly original ideas. Rather, some are enterprises that grew out of tweaking existing concepts and promoting them far more aggressively and effectively than the original innovators ever did. (more…)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Introducing “A Brief History of Entrepreneurship”

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“Throughout history, the entrepreneur’s ceaseless quest to discover and/or develop new markets has been pursued through a variety of means, all of which have had an enormous impact on society…. So while this book does not posit a moral argument for or against entrepreneurship, it does argue that it has been a “prime mover,” an instigator of seminal transformations that have altered the course of history.” — Joe Carlen

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Carlen’s Introduction, in which he traces the term “entrepreneur” back to its invention, and explains what made him investigate the history of economic invention.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship!

In 1985, Peter Drucker, the late management expert, defined entrepreneurship as “the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth,” among the most specific and meaningful definitions of the term. More literally, the words “entrepreneurship” and “enterprise” both derive from the Old French word for “an undertaking,” entrependre. Yet even in French, the related word entrepreneur did not take on its current meaning until the economist Jean-Baptiste Say so imbued it in 1800.

In the English language, until the mid-nineteenth century, when the French term entrepreneur began to enjoy common usage outside France, the term undertaker (a literal translation of the French word) was sometimes used in its stead. More frequently, however, the more evocative term “adventurer” was preferred. In this vein, the American economist William Baumol once defined the entrepreneur as “the individual willing to embark on adventure in pursuit of economic goals.” These individuals and the often unintended impact of their adventures on the course of world history are the focus of this book. (more…)