2012-2013 Business History Forum at Columbia University
The Business History Forum at Columbia University highlights the relationship between Columbia University and the city through the history of city, national, and global businesses. The Forum features speakers who address the past, present and future of industries that have been and, in many cases, continue to be important to the development of New York City, including accounting; communications, finance; law; media; real estate/development; theater; and trade. It brings together academic experts, industry practitioners, students, and the public. The Forum also provides examples of how the university acquires, preserves, and provides access to business collections through its Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Questions? E-mail Eric Wakin.
All events are free and open to the public but require registration at email@example.com
All sessions take place in 523 Butler Library, 6:30– 8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
February 11 (Monday)
Senior Fellow, Center for Financial Stability; Economist, U.S. Department of the Treasury; co-editor of The Bretton Woods Transcripts
The Bretton Woods Transcripts: New Findings
The 1944 international financial conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire established the IMF and the World Bank, and has shaped the international monetary system for nearly 70 years. In a sense, we are still living in the Bretton Woods era. Despite the importance of the conference, its transcripts, which record was what said word for word at many sessions, were unknown to scholars until recently. The Transcripts reveal the vision of participants including John Maynard Keynes, future presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders who met in 1944 to construct a financial system that would promote growth, minimize global imbalances, and foster stability. Kurt Schuler (re)discovered the transcripts and prepared them for publication with co-editor Andrew Rosenberg. Schuler will discuss what the transcripts tell us that is new about conference, and how digital technology enhances their value.
March 11 (Monday)
Author of Freedom's Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
The Business of Building the United States Capitol
From its nine-million-pound cast-iron dome to the dazzling opulence of the President’s Room and the Senate corridors, the U.S. Capitol is a triumph of both engineering and design. But its history is also the history of America’s most tumultuous years. In Freedom’s Cap Guy Gugliotta recounts the history and broader meaning of the Capitol building through the lives of the three men most responsible for its construction: Jefferson Davis, who remained the Capitol’s staunchest advocate up until the week he left Washington to become president of the Confederacy; Davis’s protégé and the Capitol’s lead engineer, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, who became quartermaster general of the Union Army and never forgave Davis for his betrayal of the nation; and the Capitol’s brilliant architect and Meigs’s longtime rival, Thomas U. Walter, who defended slavery at the beginning of the war but eventually turned fiercely against the South.
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History
April 10 (Wednesday)
The New York Times
Other People’s Money: Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made
In just over three years, real estate giant Tishman Speyer and its partner, BlackRock, lost billions of investors’ dollars on a single deal. The New York Times reporter who first broke the story of the sale of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village takes readers inside the most spectacular failure in real estate history, using this single deal as a lens to see how and why the real estate crisis happened.
How did the smartest people in real estate lose billions in one single deal? How did the Church of England, the California public employees’ pension fund, and the government of Singapore lose a combined one billion dollars of that investment? How did MetLife make three billion dollars on the deal, without any repercussions from a historically racist policy of housing segregation? And how did eight middle-class residents of a sleepy enclave in New York City win the most unlikely lawsuit in the history of real estate law?
Location: Columbia University, Butler Library, Room 523
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History; Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Earth Institute; Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, Columbia Business School; Urban Planning Program, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
April 16 (Tuesday)
Naomi R. Lamoreaux
Professor of Economics and History, Yale University
"Corporations are People Too": The Strange History of Corporations and the Fourteenth Amendment
In 1886 the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Morrison R. Waite, declared at the start of oral arguments in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.” This simple statement has generally been taken to be the Court’s definitive position on the legal personhood of corporations, and many writers have cited it as the key precedent for later decisions extending constitutional rights to corporations, including the recent Citizens United case.
But other decisions handed down by the Supreme Court around the same time seemed to say just the opposite—that the Fourteenth Amendment did NOT apply to corporations. The general thrust of these other decisions was to uphold the regulatory powers of the states over corporations by underscoring the states’ power to set conditions for, discriminate against, and even exclude completely foreign corporations (that is, corporations chartered by other states.) This strain of the case law largely eclipsed Waite’s Santa Clara declaration at least until the 1950s, when southern states sought to use their regulatory authority over corporations to keep out the NAACP.
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History; Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy
October 17th (Wednesday)
CEO, Dunne & Company and author of American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China
Honored Guests or Just Useful Visitors? Where American Companies Stand in China 40 Years after the Shanghai Communiqué
When Rudyard Kipling wrote: “Oh, the East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” he was referring to the unlikely prospects for integration between the British and their colonial subjects in India and elsewhere. Today's East can be seen as China, while the West is represented by American and other western multinationals looking for access to the Middle Kingdom's lucrative market. In his book, American Wheels, Chinese Roads, Michael Dunne, a Detroit native and 22-year veteran of China, reveals how things are working out through the lens of General Motors, the leading foreign automaker in China. GM partners with the City of Shanghai to build and sell some 2 million cars a year. Is Shanghai GM a poster child for US-China relations or is it, as the Chinese like to say, a case of “sleeping in the same bed, dreaming different dreams”?
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History; Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business, Columbia Business School
October 22, 2012 (Monday)
Arthur Imperatore, Jr.
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, New York Waterway
Back to the Future: Mass Transit Ferry Networks and Enhanced Regional Mobility
On April 25, 1967, the last double-ended railroad ferry finished its run from the Erie Lackawanna (now NJ Transit) railroad terminal in Hoboken to Barclay Street in lower Manhattan, marking the end of over 350 years of private ferry services in New York Harbor and leaving the municipally operated Staten Island Ferry as the only surviving service in a region once dominated by water transit. Today NY Waterway has reestablished private, largely unsubsidized mass-transit ferry and connecting bus service throughout the metropolitan region, serving over 35,000 daily commuters from 21 terminals over 25 routes. This talk will discuss the history of NY Waterway as a private, entrepreneurial vision for the renaissance of New York’s oldest form of mass transit, and present a future vision for enhanced intermodal rail, bus, light rail, park-ride and ferry service for the future travel needs of this region.
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History; Urban Planning Program and and Center for Urban Real Estate, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation;
November 13, 2012 (Tuesday)
Svenska Handelsbanken Visiting Professor of Knowledge Management, Lund University;
Visiting Professor, ESADE
Coauthor of Confronting Managerialism: How the Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance
William D. Guth
Professor Emeritus of Management and Strategy, New York University Stern School of Business
Have Business Schools Lost Their Way?
Spender’s book is a critique of the influence of neoclassical economics and modern finance on business school teaching and management practice. In it he argues that business managers, once well-regarded as custodians of the economic engine driving growth and social progress, now seem closer to the rapacious robber barons of the 1880s. The result is that responsible management has given way to managerialism, whereby an elite caste of businesspeople disconnected from ethical considerations make the decisions.
The book traces the loss of managers’ earlier social concerns, amply encouraged by the transformation of management education since the 1960s, especially in the US. It also questions both the social ethics of US managers and US management efficacy compared to systems of management that are highly employee participative and dependent, such as in Germany and Japan. Today’s attempts to “bolt on” ethics and social responsibility courses, the book argues, are a public relations move that cannot get to the heart of the matter and only fundamental reforms in civil society and business schools can really make a difference.
Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History