Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations

n this shrewd piece of intellectual history, former Boston Globe columnist Warsh shows how two contradictory concepts of Adam Smith-the invisible hand and the division of labor (famously, at a pin factory)-took on lives of their own after their 1776 publication in The Wealth of Nations, and then finally converged in the work of late 20th century economist Paul Romer. In the first half of … [ Read more ]

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

A book about the history of the shipping container? At first, one has to wonder why. (An eventuality not lost on the author, who muses “What is it about the container that is so important? Surely not the thing itself…the standard container has all the romance of a tin can.”) The catch, though, is that Levinson, an economist, “treats containerization not as shipping news, but … [ Read more ]

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises

Manias, Panics, and Crashes is a scholarly but highly readable trip through the history of financial crises from the Mississippi and South-Sea bubbles to the June, 1974, failures of the Herstatt Bank of Cologne and the Franklin Bank of New York. Kindleberger’s goal is to illustrate the causes and consequences of mania (a bubble in asset prices driven by an irrational excitement about business possibilities), … [ Read more ]

Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance

In a 30-year career equally divided between academics (University of Chicago) and Wall Street, Black contributed seminal papers in almost every area of finance and many areas of economics, but few were published in major peer-reviewed journals and many were never published at all. He spent most of his time alone in a room thinking and writing, was uncomfortable in large groups, an undistinguished lecturer … [ Read more ]

Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938

Once in Golconda is a dramatic chronicle of the breathtaking rise, devastating fall, and painstaking rebirth of Wall Street in the years between the wars. Focusing on the lives and fortunes of some of the era’s most memorable traders, bankers, boosters, and frauds, John Brooks brings to vivid life all the ruthlessness, greed, and reckless euphoria of the ’20s bull market, the desperation of the … [ Read more ]

Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

Before Charles Ponzi (1882-1949) sailed from Italy to the shores of America in 1903, his father assured him that the streets were really paved with gold – and that Ponzi would be able to get a piece. As journalist Zuckoff observes in this engaging and fast-paced biography, Ponzi learned as soon as he disembarked that though the streets were often cobblestone, he could still make … [ Read more ]

They Made America: Two Centuries of Innovators from the Steam Engine to the Search Engine

Developed in tandem with a four-part PBS series, Evans’s profusely illustrated and elegantly written book offers the same breadth and scope as his previous bestseller, The American Century. Evans, former president and publisher of Random House, profiles 70 of America’s leading inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators, some better known than others. Along with such obvious choices as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers, Evans … [ Read more ]

The Ladies’ Paradise

The Ladies Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the rise of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family: it is emblematic of changes in consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century. This new translation of the … [ Read more ]

Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America

With wit and verve, Walter Friedman gives us a cast of memorable characters who turned salesmanship from ballyhoo to behaviorism, from silliness to science. Informed by prodigious research, Birth of a Salesman also clarifies the birth of modern marketing–from an angle that humanizes its subject through wry, ironic, but serious analysis. This is a pioneering work on a subject crucial to American social, cultural, and … [ Read more ]

The Illustrated Story of Copyright

Starting from the perspective of the future of technological innovations such as computers and software, Samuels looks into the past, placing those innovations in historical context and giving life to what is generally considered an esoteric subject. He notes that U.S. copyright laws have been sufficiently flexible and adaptive to accommodate new issues. He examines contemporary issues from the MP3 music-sharing litigation to restrictions on … [ Read more ]

A Brief History of the Future: From Radio Days to Internet Years in a Lifetime

Al Gore’s infamous claim that he invented the Internet is more widely known than the names of the scientists and engineers who really made it happen. Despite its profound impact on just about everything, the Internet’s origins simply aren’t common knowledge.

John Naughton sets out to remedy that by giving the largely anonymous “boys in the back room” credit for what they did. He chronicles the … [ Read more ]

Money and Power: The History of Business

This companion book to CNBC’s acclaimed documentary Money and Power provides an expansive global view of the moguls and dynasties that have defined business in the last millennium. Deftly tracing the movement of trade, banking, industry, and commerce from East to West, from ancient times to modern, it offers important lessons that are of timeless value-and inspiration for the next generation of groundbreakers and visionaries … [ Read more ]

Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World

The history of the twentieth century is most often told through its world wars, the rise and fall of communism, or its economic upheavals. In his startling new book, J. R. McNeill gives us our first general account of what may prove to be the most significant dimension of the twentieth century: its environmental history. To a degree unprecedented in human history, we have refashioned … [ Read more ]

Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M. Landis and Alfred E. Kahn

The first railroad czar, the first trade regulator, the first Wall Street watchdog, the economist who shook up the airlines in the ‘70s-these are McCraw’s titular prophets, the guys who mastered the art of keeping business in check. McCraw tells their engaging stories-like that of James Landis, father of the SEC, dean of Harvard Law School, alcoholic, tax evader, reported suicide-covering 100 years of U.S. … [ Read more ]

Guide to Management Ideas (The Economist Series)

The definitive guide to the most influential 100 management ideas of the past 100 years.
A lot has changed in the way businesses have been managed in the last hundred years. This lively and authoritative guide explores the hundred ideas that have most influenced approaches to business management during the past 100 years-and which are likely to continue to do so long into this century. … [ Read more ]

The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea

Considering the astounding impact companies have had on every corner of civilization, it’s amazing that the development of the institution has been largely unexamined. Economist editors Micklethwait and Wooldridge present a compact and timely book that deftly sketches the history of the company. They trace its progress from Assyrian partnership agreements through the 16th- and 17th-century European “charter companies” that opened trade with distant parts … [ Read more ]

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance

“If you wonder why the corporate world constantly lurches from malaise to oppression to governmental corruption and back, Unequal Protection reveals the untold story. Beneath the success and rise of American enterprise is an untold history that is antithetical to every value Americans hold dear. This is a seminal work, a godsend really, a clear message to every citizen about the need to reform our … [ Read more ]

Inventing Japan, 1853-1964 (A Modern Library Chronicles Series)

Cool, informed historical primer from journalist-novelist Buruma (The Missionary and the Libertine, 2000, etc.), tracing Japan from its opening to the West in 1853 through its transformation into a militaristic state to its reemergence as a peaceful, pacifistic host of the 1964 Olympics. From start to finish, this concise narrative unfolds in dense ironies. In the 19th century, Commodore Matthew Perry’s interpreter observed that the … [ Read more ]

Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life

In this provocative and incisive social history of the corporation, British journalist Sampson observes that the “organization man” of the 1950s and ’60s – a loyal worker confident of annual raises and a growing pension – is virtually extinct. Today’s company men and company women face insecurity in offices that seem placeless networks of telecommuters and data banks, with short-term specialists and consultants increasingly replacing … [ Read more ]

A New View of Society and Other Writings

“In an era when “dark, satanic mills” were the norm, Owen took young children out of his Scottish factory and put them in a school he funded. He invented day care, unemployment insurance, contributory sickness and retirement plans, and a credit union. He reduced his employees’ workdays from 13 to 10 hours, gave them job security during recessions, and established their right to appeal supervisors’ … [ Read more ]