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Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism

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From the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company, America has been a place for people to dream, invent, build, tinker, and bet the farm in pursuit of a better life. Americana takes us on a four-hundred-year journey of this spirit of innovation and ambition through a series of Next Big Things -- the inventions, techniques, and industries that drove American history f From the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company, America has been a place for people to dream, invent, build, tinker, and bet the farm in pursuit of a better life. Americana takes us on a four-hundred-year journey of this spirit of innovation and ambition through a series of Next Big Things -- the inventions, techniques, and industries that drove American history forward: from the telegraph, the railroad, guns, radio, and banking to flight, suburbia, and sneakers, culminating with the Internet and mobile technology at the turn of the twenty-first century. The result is a thrilling alternative history of modern America that reframes events, trends, and people we thought we knew through the prism of the value that, for better or for worse, this nation holds dearest: capitalism. In a winning, accessible style, Bhu Srinivasan boldly takes on four centuries of American enterprise, revealing the unexpected connections that link them. We learn how Andrew Carnegie's early job as a telegraph messenger boy paved the way for his leadership of the steel empire that would make him one of the nation's richest men; how the gunmaker Remington reinvented itself in the postwar years to sell typewriters; how the inner workings of the Mafia mirrored the trend of consolidation and regulation in more traditional business; and how a 1950s infrastructure bill triggered a series of events that produced one of America's most enduring brands: KFC. Reliving the heady early days of Silicon Valley, we are reminded that the start-up is an idea as old as America itself. Entertaining, eye-opening, and sweeping in its reach, Americana is an exhilarating new work of narrative history.


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From the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company, America has been a place for people to dream, invent, build, tinker, and bet the farm in pursuit of a better life. Americana takes us on a four-hundred-year journey of this spirit of innovation and ambition through a series of Next Big Things -- the inventions, techniques, and industries that drove American history f From the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company, America has been a place for people to dream, invent, build, tinker, and bet the farm in pursuit of a better life. Americana takes us on a four-hundred-year journey of this spirit of innovation and ambition through a series of Next Big Things -- the inventions, techniques, and industries that drove American history forward: from the telegraph, the railroad, guns, radio, and banking to flight, suburbia, and sneakers, culminating with the Internet and mobile technology at the turn of the twenty-first century. The result is a thrilling alternative history of modern America that reframes events, trends, and people we thought we knew through the prism of the value that, for better or for worse, this nation holds dearest: capitalism. In a winning, accessible style, Bhu Srinivasan boldly takes on four centuries of American enterprise, revealing the unexpected connections that link them. We learn how Andrew Carnegie's early job as a telegraph messenger boy paved the way for his leadership of the steel empire that would make him one of the nation's richest men; how the gunmaker Remington reinvented itself in the postwar years to sell typewriters; how the inner workings of the Mafia mirrored the trend of consolidation and regulation in more traditional business; and how a 1950s infrastructure bill triggered a series of events that produced one of America's most enduring brands: KFC. Reliving the heady early days of Silicon Valley, we are reminded that the start-up is an idea as old as America itself. Entertaining, eye-opening, and sweeping in its reach, Americana is an exhilarating new work of narrative history.

30 review for Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    Nice try, but no. The book is well intentioned but in my opinion fails to deliver on its promise. The author is well read and seems to come from a venture background. He has written a 400 year history of American capitalism that seems somewhat effective as an extended personal statement of the author’s views on the American experience with the market. I would have liked the book more if it had been good history along with being a heartfelt personal reflection on US business history. Every one of Nice try, but no. The book is well intentioned but in my opinion fails to deliver on its promise. The author is well read and seems to come from a venture background. He has written a 400 year history of American capitalism that seems somewhat effective as an extended personal statement of the author’s views on the American experience with the market. I would have liked the book more if it had been good history along with being a heartfelt personal reflection on US business history. Every one of the chapters in the book, while containing nuggets of insight, come across as highly oversimplified efforts to condense a lots of material into a focused punchline filled statement of sorts. The trouble is that the general punchlines presented here are well known and covered much more effectively in the materials that Srinivasan draws from. The condensation process needed to transform 400 years into 500 flowing pages means that much of the nuance gets lost along the way. There are some nice touches to the book. For example, looking at the voyage of the Mayflower from the perspective of venture funding is nice and insightful. Throughout the book, there are also lots of little vignettes that are worth noting, whether they be details of John Brown’s career to the ways in which Britain adapted to the loss of Souther cotton during the US Civil War. Most of this material is well known and not particularly new to anyone who does their own reading on US economic history. He covers the Robber Barons and brings up the oddities of some of the characters, such as Andrew Carnegie. The role of the Civil War in providing initial experiences to many of the stars of the Guilded Age is nicely done, however. It is clear that Srinivasan has a story to tell and also that he is a fan of capitalism. That is certainly OK as a perspective unless one goes overboard in motivating Guilded Age history as a prelude for the Internet bubble of the 1990s, which takes one into a facile sort of looking backwards. But the story being told on business-government relations is not clear either. If one is singing the praises of markets, then US history is almost exclusively filled with examples where government involvement has been crucial - to the point of arguing for a mixed model. This comes out later in book when Mr. Srinivasan notes the role of the Chinese government in the emergence of the Chinese economy after Deng’s reforms after 1978. Srinivasan also notes the mixed US model in discussing this. I guess my problem is that the book is written very confidently and it is clear that the author has a perspective, although it is seldom clear what the perspective is as it jumps around from chapter to chapter. If I add to this my own perspective that the history here is fascinating but far more complex then suggested in the book, then my trouble with the book is crystallized. Along this line, there are several chapters that have entirely too much glossing over of detail - for example the entire period from WW1 up through the start of the Cold War. I did not see a lot of straight errrors in the book. I just did not get that much out of it. If one does not know much of the history, this book would be an engaging introduction. I do not see what the author adds on these topics over other well known sources. Even towards the end, the book reads like he is taking his narrative largely from Michael Lewis on Netscape. That is OK for an article, but it wears thin over 500 pages.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hartley

    This book is an excellent overview of 400 years of American capitalism with tremendous insights. It's a quick read, though roughly 500 pages. The stories are tight. Not too much detail, but enough to paint the picture and tie together the narratives. There are profound parallels to our modern world, and we all might hit pause on the iPhone and crack a history book. This one doesn't disappoint. This book is an excellent overview of 400 years of American capitalism with tremendous insights. It's a quick read, though roughly 500 pages. The stories are tight. Not too much detail, but enough to paint the picture and tie together the narratives. There are profound parallels to our modern world, and we all might hit pause on the iPhone and crack a history book. This one doesn't disappoint.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Travis Tucker

    It's possibly just my finance background, but I loved this book. The book (incompletely, of course) recounts American history through the eyes of business. It provided a new point of view (and associated motivations that weren't traditionally told) on many events throughout history. I enjoyed how it told a number of entrepreneurial stories that I hadn't previously heard, especially in the gilded age and prior. I look forward to reading further books to learn more about the more interesting ones. It's possibly just my finance background, but I loved this book. The book (incompletely, of course) recounts American history through the eyes of business. It provided a new point of view (and associated motivations that weren't traditionally told) on many events throughout history. I enjoyed how it told a number of entrepreneurial stories that I hadn't previously heard, especially in the gilded age and prior. I look forward to reading further books to learn more about the more interesting ones. The book starts to fall flat as we get closer to present day, where there themes / stories were almost scatterbrained and shoehorned in, but given how much this "history" book drew me in for the first 75%, I still give it 5 stars - wish I had this in school to supplement my understanding of events.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rama

    The American capitalism in Global Economy Adam Smith’s masterpiece of economic analysis, The Wealth of Nations, was symbolic in that its publication date of 1776 coincided with the Declaration of American Independence. Smith examined simple economic concepts in which that individuals are capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He summarized capitalism in terms of common sense; as how markets move, why they move, and how variables affect the outcomes. He support The American capitalism in Global Economy Adam Smith’s masterpiece of economic analysis, The Wealth of Nations, was symbolic in that its publication date of 1776 coincided with the Declaration of American Independence. Smith examined simple economic concepts in which that individuals are capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He summarized capitalism in terms of common sense; as how markets move, why they move, and how variables affect the outcomes. He supported free trade and small businesses and his book provided the first integrated description of the workings of a market economy. The spirit of his work still lives on and it revolutionized the way governments and individuals view the creation and dispersion of wealth. The author of this book does not discuss economics, but simply documents the American success from a historical perspective. Topics includes very diverse subjects like; venture, taxes, tobacco, cotton, gold, slavery, war, oil, steel unions, trusts, food, automobiles, radio, and TV to computing, startups and internet. The book takes a very simple approach at the history without discussing the economics or politics or sociological ramifications that impacted these economic factors. The book is very arbitrarily classified into four sections and various topics are jumbled together in 35 chapters. Each chapter in a section has no bearing on each other. The book does not flow smoothly as a reader would expect. The author could have considered expanding on factors that helped capitalism to grow. For example, slavery is long regarded as an error in American history but its impact on the American economy is long forgotten. The expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence led to the modernization of the United States. The South grew from a narrow coastal strip of tobacco plantations to a mighty cotton producer, and then grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy. Another factor that could have a made difference is the unions and workforce. The Silicon Valley Technology and Wall Street greed is thrusting upon American lives. The "sharing economy” concept of companies like Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit has encouraged workers to become "independent" and their own CEOs. Hiring themselves out for ever-smaller jobs and wages while the corporations benefit enormously. Increased subcontracting and consulting services by corporations also has economic consequences in the long run. Social justice is not reaching out for the average American worker. I sense hearing Elton John’s hit song, “Don't let the sun go down on me.” Let us not allow sun to go down on American capitalism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bharathi

    Even without a hypothesis, this book clearly tells us the story of the march of American capitalism from the Mayflower to the Occupy mvement. Americana enumerates the different factors geographical, cutural and historical that has created the progress of this unique economy. It covers topics diverse as tobacco and cotton to railoads, newspapers film, suburbia, computers and mobile phones, giving us a glimpse of the American free enterprise. After reading this book, I am left with wanting to read a Even without a hypothesis, this book clearly tells us the story of the march of American capitalism from the Mayflower to the Occupy mvement. Americana enumerates the different factors geographical, cutural and historical that has created the progress of this unique economy. It covers topics diverse as tobacco and cotton to railoads, newspapers film, suburbia, computers and mobile phones, giving us a glimpse of the American free enterprise. After reading this book, I am left with wanting to read a similar one for American industry.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike Zickar

    A wonderful book. The author reviews the history of capitalism within the history of the US, focusing a lot on technological advances that spurred the advance of our economy. One recurrent theme is that our capitalism is not the unfettered kind that laissez faire right wing pundits like to claim it is, but that the interplay between government and private industry has led to most of our progress. Although much of this story is probably familiar territory to most readers, the author adds fresh per A wonderful book. The author reviews the history of capitalism within the history of the US, focusing a lot on technological advances that spurred the advance of our economy. One recurrent theme is that our capitalism is not the unfettered kind that laissez faire right wing pundits like to claim it is, but that the interplay between government and private industry has led to most of our progress. Although much of this story is probably familiar territory to most readers, the author adds fresh perspectives to material that I found refreshing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jacek Bartczak

    As for hundreds of years, the USA have been the center of innovation - part of this book can be called "the history of next big things". "The Americana" painted a freat perspective on the development of the most powerful economy in history. From Christopher Columb, trough Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller to Steve Jobs and Marc Andressen. Many interesting stories about beginnings of U.S. Steel, IBM, Ford, GE, General Motors, NBC, Netscape, AOL, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Wells Fargo to name a few. All As for hundreds of years, the USA have been the center of innovation - part of this book can be called "the history of next big things". "The Americana" painted a freat perspective on the development of the most powerful economy in history. From Christopher Columb, trough Andrew Carnegie, Rockefeller to Steve Jobs and Marc Andressen. Many interesting stories about beginnings of U.S. Steel, IBM, Ford, GE, General Motors, NBC, Netscape, AOL, Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Wells Fargo to name a few. All mixed with sociological and political context. Audible version took 20 hours, but even 50 wouldn't be a problem. A couple of conclusions: 1) Steamship, railroad, telegraph, oil - once they all were "the next big thing" 2) Today people who expect huge profits can invest in startups. Hundreds of years ago people invested in ships which were supposed to discover lands which will bring huge profits. 3) Serial entrepreneurs existed hundreds of years ago. One of them once invented the machine which boosts the efficiency of cotton production. As he couldn't defend his invention from copycats he switched to... the weapon market. 4) These days stories about startups and their rollercoasters&hustle are very common. That was exactly how Samuel Morse created the US telegraph. There were days when he had nothing to eat. 5) During the goldRush, some American icons were born. Like jeans (gold hunters needed to wear something) or the bank Wells Fargo. 6) The value of 4 million slaves was higher than the value of the gold mined in California for 10 years. Families without slaves were considered as the lowest social class. People who tried to rescue slaves were considered as a terrorist. 7) What Pultizer made with one of his newspapers was the pure blue ocean strategy. He removed factors that some target group didn't need (detailed political / law news), added more things which they needed (lighter articles about lighter topics) and lowered prices.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robert Muller

    3-1/2 stars, half a star taken away for my main criticism: the book is so big-picture the pixels don't reveal anything. This is a positive review: Bhu Srinivasan is a great writer, and this is a great read: 500 pages went like a good mystery novel. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really make sense in the end because it's really just a series of short stories, like Kennedy's Profiles in Courage: what Capitalism in America did right and wrong to get us to where we are today. Srinivasan turns up a 3-1/2 stars, half a star taken away for my main criticism: the book is so big-picture the pixels don't reveal anything. This is a positive review: Bhu Srinivasan is a great writer, and this is a great read: 500 pages went like a good mystery novel. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really make sense in the end because it's really just a series of short stories, like Kennedy's Profiles in Courage: what Capitalism in America did right and wrong to get us to where we are today. Srinivasan turns up a lot of interesting facts in his stories, but he misses a lot of basic stories on the way. Sometimes he gets it wrong: "The Valachi Papers" is not perhaps the best historicist resource on how the mob worked in the 40's and 50's, much less after that. Where is G..b..l W...rm...g? Not economic enough? The youngsters get a mention during the sixties and nineties, but only a sentence or two. Nike gets a mention for creating the concept of China (just kidding) but where is the slavery in clothes, fishing, maritime, etc.? He does see the slavery in the pre-war South and the subtle discrimination of Levittown (:)) but misses the Black Lives Matter follow-on, both as an event as as a fact. Having just seen "There Will Be Blood" has probably made me jaundiced, even as he devotes several pages to "The Jungle" and its consequences for the Progressives and Teddy Roosevelt. For a great but fictional big-picture view of American Capitalism, see "Barkskins" by Annie Proulx. Just as high level but a lot more revealing, maybe because she doesn't need to be constrained by explaining history, just by telling stories. Still, a great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen (itpdx)

    I am intrigued by the idea of teaching history using silos or areas of interest, such as science/medicine, culture, or sports as examples. This would be a main text for the business/economics silo. Bhu Srinivasan follows American business starting with how the original colonies were structured and financed. I found out about this book from an episode of the podcast Backstory on the Civil War. Some of the interesting things I found out from this book: How important the California and Alaska gold r I am intrigued by the idea of teaching history using silos or areas of interest, such as science/medicine, culture, or sports as examples. This would be a main text for the business/economics silo. Bhu Srinivasan follows American business starting with how the original colonies were structured and financed. I found out about this book from an episode of the podcast Backstory on the Civil War. Some of the interesting things I found out from this book: How important the California and Alaska gold rushes were to the finances of the US Government How several of the Confederate states came to the valuation of slaves cited in their Articles of Secession. How venture capital got started and what role it played getting high tech companies off the ground. The different business models used by inventors such as Samuel Morse and Thomas Edison. The history of leveraged buyouts. I listened to the first part of the book on audio. I did not care for the reader. To my ear, he had an attitude.

  10. 5 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    It's all about money. This is the story of how the quest for personal wealth shaped America. It's partly a story of innovation, but mostly about how those innovations were capitalized to make as much money from them as possible. Benefits to society were sometimes incidental, but the driving force was a capitalist trying to make a (preferably quick) buck. Often this meant finding ways to cut out the original inventors. There are few stunning insights or surprising revelations, and no value judgme It's all about money. This is the story of how the quest for personal wealth shaped America. It's partly a story of innovation, but mostly about how those innovations were capitalized to make as much money from them as possible. Benefits to society were sometimes incidental, but the driving force was a capitalist trying to make a (preferably quick) buck. Often this meant finding ways to cut out the original inventors. There are few stunning insights or surprising revelations, and no value judgments or projections about the future, but it's an informative overview.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tony61

    The author’s thesis is that American history is the story of capital going where it is treated best. This perspective is presented with vignettes that point out that while political freedom is important, it was not necessarily unique to America, but the ability to capture wealth was indeed best adapted in the New World. Chapter names correspond to industries and institutions that have created wealth in America, e.g., Tobacco, Taxes, Cotton, Slavery, Steam, Railroads, Retail, Unions, Automobiles, The author’s thesis is that American history is the story of capital going where it is treated best. This perspective is presented with vignettes that point out that while political freedom is important, it was not necessarily unique to America, but the ability to capture wealth was indeed best adapted in the New World. Chapter names correspond to industries and institutions that have created wealth in America, e.g., Tobacco, Taxes, Cotton, Slavery, Steam, Railroads, Retail, Unions, Automobiles, Bootlegging, Television, Computing, Finance….among others. Srinivasan begins with the English Mayflower: immigrants who had attained political and religious freedom in Holland but lacked the ability to attain wealth and a desirable standard of living. Therefore, with the help of venture capital, the members of the Mayflower community set sail for America. He notes that this community crossed the Atlantic not so much for political or religious freedom but for economic opportunity. Srinivasan discusses slavery from the standpoint of property wealth and points out that the dilemma was never to be easily resolved-- there was just too much wealth at stake for the South to voluntarily give up the institution, and the North didn’t have the capital to make up those losses. The dollars and cents calculations of the value of each slave, while coldly intellectual, puts the point to his hypothesis that decisions have been made for purely financial reasons and war was indeed inevitable. “...there is ample evidence to suggest that slavery had morphed from simply being a pool of owned labor to be coming, in effect, monetary base of South. In most farming societies, the most valuable asset was the land….The South was different. Not only could the land be owned, but the lifetime value of labor inputs, human beings, could also be owned with clear and transferable legal title. Most important, just like land, slaveholders could pledge their slaves as loan collateral. Indeed, slaves made for a much better form of collateral than land. Land prices have far greater variability based on size of parcel, location, microclimate, crops grown, soil depletion, water access. And unlike a slave land could not be moved. For the borrower, it was easier to sell one or two slaves than to break off a portion of their land (p. 127).” Plantation owners borrowed against their slaves which were used as capital. This made for economic dependence on the way of life which was not easily disassembled. Owners of slaves were heavily leveraged against their slave capital and any devaluation meant financial ruin. In effect, continued slavery was untenable but any resolution was not economically feasible, therefore, war was inevitable. Srinivasan notes that through most of American economic history, capital was helped along by various institutions that aided the generation of wealth. Automobiles as consumer products had a slightly different trajectory, that of pure capitalism. “That [Henry] Ford, having gone through two automotive failures and on the verge of turning forty, looking to compete with dozens of new entries in the automotive field each year, could still raise any capital at all was an affirmation of the principles laid out by Adam Smith, and every classical economist since: That despite the risk of total loss, money finds Its way to opportunity when the potential rewards are high enough. In this, the birth of the automobile was the pure free-market at work. Unlike the steamboat, which developed out of a monopoly grant; or the railroad, which needed the state's power of eminent domain to provision the land needed for tracks; or the telegraph which received $30,000 from the federal government to prove its viability; or cotton which grew into America's top pre Civil War export with state-sanctioned slavery; or steel which needed tariff protection for decades to compete with British imports, the automobile was a product of the tinkerer and inventor, the iteration of thousands of mechanical minds like Ford’s (p. 283).” The further growth of the automobile, however, was aided by the government sponsored highway system. Capitalism is never pure. State sanctioned and financed institutions have always pushed capital into burgeoning fields. Srinivasan also notes that American capitalism has been marked by gritty individuals who often had a single purpose but often lacked formal education. Much of the grit was borne of ambition and an ability to navigate the markets and see which priorities would garner capital investment. “Apple [Computer] was also the age-old American startup. Just as unschooled men of humble beginnings with endless old hustle -- Luck and Pluck, has one Horatio Alger title went-- found American capitalism the ladder to conquest, this was the start of another example of the American storybook. Democracy was only a political equalizer; this free market was Darwinian competition. In the earliest days of the Republic, when men first learned to navigate upstream with steam power it was the gritty, unschooled Vanderbilt who conquered the market. The thirteen-year-old Carnegie -- fresh off the boat from Scotland, having seen his father displaced there as a casualty of the Industrial Revolution-- worked the boiler room without seeing the sun for days on end, made his way up as messenger boy at a telegraph office, and eventually dominated the American steel industry. During trial testimony taken well after he was established as a titan, Henry Ford couldn't identify the decade of the American Revolution, speculating that it might have happened in the 1800's. But who cared? The market was not an exam for scholars -- the right answer was when the customer paid (p. 432).” Even the current environment sees the dance of government, social institutions and capitalism working together to generate wealth, often accumulated by a few individuals or corporations, putting a lie to the notion of a pure free market. Other countries now emulate the US model. “The strong central government in Beijing was setting the economic trajectory for over a billion people the same way Washington had done for over a century. The tariff on steel was central to the success of Carnegie and other domestic producers during the Gilded Age. Federally guaranteed home loans were and remain the backbone of the housing Industry, and with it, the construction industry. Consumer bank deposits were similarly federally insured. Vital developments in radio, television, satellites, mainframe computing, and the internet have been achieved through military expenditures. America, the leading food producer in the world had pages of farm subsidies on the books. The automakers had essentially been taken over during the Second World War-- they weren't allowed to make cars for private sale for nearly 3 years. Later, automakers would receive significant bailouts and government backed loans. And indeed the participants in the American economy were largely educated at public schools and colleges. Retirement was taken care of for Americans through Social Security. Capitalism in America was not arms-length ideology; it was an endlessly calibrated balance between State subsidies, social programs, government contracts, regulation, free will, entrepreneurship, and free markets. The Chinese looked to do the same thing, albeit with one less political party than the Americans had (p. 485).” Srinivasan attempts to tackle the dilemma of wealth inequality, noting that American capitalism--- as all capitalism-- creates wealth in ever unequal distribution. Now we are faced with an increasing consumer class in the United States at a time when labor is done largely overseas. He ponders the sustainability of such a situation. The thesis of this book is nuanced and new. The author presents entertaining anecdotes artfully assembled to create a narrative of our economic history. The perspective of wealth creation is a useful adjunct to a more traditional study of history and renders a better understanding of how we got to where we are.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bianca A.

    The book is exactly what the title promises, American history told through the central lens of its capitalism. It's perfect for history, and particularly American history, enthusiasts BUT dare I say even more so for fans of capitalism and economy in general as there is huge focus on the subject. For me these topics will always be a heavy and unpleasant (maybe because I've not read enough or maybe I fail to see its immediate utility to my life in any special way), but nonetheless a necessary read The book is exactly what the title promises, American history told through the central lens of its capitalism. It's perfect for history, and particularly American history, enthusiasts BUT dare I say even more so for fans of capitalism and economy in general as there is huge focus on the subject. For me these topics will always be a heavy and unpleasant (maybe because I've not read enough or maybe I fail to see its immediate utility to my life in any special way), but nonetheless a necessary read, so I'll always rate it low (liked it/it was OK). It's the first published work of an Indian author whose family immigrated in the US when he was 8 and then who hopped the nation's main cities due to his mother's career. The book really starts from the roots (the New England's colonies) up until the very recent times (the golden age of Silicon Valley). If you're familiar with a lot of these items, you'll speed read through the book as I have. The author focuses more on economy, instead of politics, as the main drive behind all types of events, including his personal life. It was particularly cool to see the natural birth of modern day's venture capital funding, details about trades through colonial exports, the rupture between the American colonies and mother England, the revolutionary war and so on and so forth, which the author deems it all standing behind financial motives. It made me think that money did rule the world, as it also continues to do so.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bartosz Majewski

    I think it's a great idea to write history based on enterpreneurial / capitalistic / industrial events instead of political ones. The author delivered a fascinating story of economic history of the USA. Even i really don't need another arguments to bemore pro-business or pro-USA i got some more. I'd love to read a version of this book about Poland. Or Germany. Or China. I think it's a great idea to write history based on enterpreneurial / capitalistic / industrial events instead of political ones. The author delivered a fascinating story of economic history of the USA. Even i really don't need another arguments to bemore pro-business or pro-USA i got some more. I'd love to read a version of this book about Poland. Or Germany. Or China.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Olya

    Really interesting look at American capitalism and the country's history. Some great stories there that make you re-think what you thought you knew. Really interesting look at American capitalism and the country's history. Some great stories there that make you re-think what you thought you knew.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    This book is a fascinating look at capitalism through the perspective of American history. It is kinda long, but very easy to read. I learned so many things I did not know. Highly recommend!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Xuhui Shao

    Easy to read American history from a capitalism view point. Not a ton of new material if you already are well versed in modern American history. Still a great read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Param

    Phenomenal book, looking at the US from the perspective of different industries that have driven its economy. Highly recommend

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    This felt like a good US history/economy refresher course. I liked the thematic chapters as organizing principle - enjoyed parts 1 & 2 best, 3 next, 4 least (probably because of familiarity with all of the more contemporary themes - didn’t feel like there were any new takes here). The personal stories and meandering/pivoting paths behind name-brand inventors and magnates that I didn’t previously know were entertaining and the book certainly does a good job of solidifying the allure and glory of This felt like a good US history/economy refresher course. I liked the thematic chapters as organizing principle - enjoyed parts 1 & 2 best, 3 next, 4 least (probably because of familiarity with all of the more contemporary themes - didn’t feel like there were any new takes here). The personal stories and meandering/pivoting paths behind name-brand inventors and magnates that I didn’t previously know were entertaining and the book certainly does a good job of solidifying the allure and glory of entrepreneurship, and commands respect for the risk taking that drives economic progress.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Keehr

    Besides the fact that cotton and tobacco represented the number one exports of this nation in the early part of the 19th century, I don't think I learned anything new from this book. It was a disappointment. It provides the history that its title encompasses but it doesn't really add much to that history in the way of commentary. It fails to generate much excitement about the great moments in technological advancement or universal availability of new appliances and tools that have changed the wo Besides the fact that cotton and tobacco represented the number one exports of this nation in the early part of the 19th century, I don't think I learned anything new from this book. It was a disappointment. It provides the history that its title encompasses but it doesn't really add much to that history in the way of commentary. It fails to generate much excitement about the great moments in technological advancement or universal availability of new appliances and tools that have changed the world. In short, it is a pedestrian work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tosin Adeoti

    This afternoon, I finished Bhu Srinivasan's "Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism". It's always exciting to have people read books with you. Sometimes the thought that those you started the book with have finished reading and are asking for a new recommendation can only encourage you. This book was not an exception. Not unlike some of the other books I have journeyed this year with, this was one that had me studying dozens of reference materials to further understand the topics un This afternoon, I finished Bhu Srinivasan's "Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism". It's always exciting to have people read books with you. Sometimes the thought that those you started the book with have finished reading and are asking for a new recommendation can only encourage you. This book was not an exception. Not unlike some of the other books I have journeyed this year with, this was one that had me studying dozens of reference materials to further understand the topics under discussion. Bhu chronicles the start of the American nation through the efforts of foreign men of means driven by appetites for glorious gains willing to overlook the possibility of loss on a venture - the Virginia Company - to gaining independence from the British monarch and asserting its authority as a world superpower through its unique nuance of capitalism. With the book broken into four interesting parts containing 36 chapters, it describes the several contributions to the economic supremacy of this unlikely group of independent colonies. How tobacco seeds brought from England found such a fertile land in America that it quickly became the America's dominant export, accounting for nearly 80 percent of its total export. Fur, the next-largest export item, accounted for around 5 percent. In discussion about slavery contributed to America as a nation, so much nuance is lost. It was interesting to see Bhu acknowledge that for a while it was more expensive to keep slaves than indentured servants - European immigrants who worked for a certain number of years, mostly 7 years, and then provided some of the abundant lands after their servanthood - because of the upfront allocation of capital and their high mortality rate. However because land is not unlimited, owing slaves and their acclimatization to the new environment eventually made owing and keeping them a better economic decision. And for this, the nation would fight a really bloody civil war, the South vs the North, to emancipate them. Quick fact: Save for a few slaves owners in Washington (representing 0.075%), the United States remains the only country to abolish slavery without paying compensation to slave owners. Like I always say, I read every book with Nigeria in mind. Imagine my surprise to see that as far back as 1792, facing the “extreme difficulty” of separating seeds from cotton, men would get to work seeking and finding a solution; a solution without which America would never have been much of a cotton producer. Eli Whitney's invention’s impact on the lives of people, nations, and war and peace was staggering. Just to mention one of such impacts: This mechanical act of separating cotton from its seeds led to America supplying over 70 percent of the world’s raw cotton. It's 2019 and Nigerians are still manually picking stones from beans before cooking. Our rice farmers are telling us to help them pick stones from the rice before cooking (You don't believe me? Ask me and I will send you links). Then there were the captains of industry like Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Rockefeller who embodies or were seen to embody the free market ideology. Perhaps no one practiced free market strategies more than Vanderbilt. While government tariffs propelled men like Carnegie, Vanderbilt's strategy was simple: enter a market, undercut prices to the point of causing pain (by at least 50%), and get bought out. Indeed the trajectory of America as an economic miracle was fuelled by the notion of everyone for himself at the time after the basic rule for law and order are established. This led to unprecedented wealth and raised standard of living because people will use the impetus of survival to produce and innovate, which then led to the need to regulate and punish untoward behaviour in the market, for instance the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration, which then led to provision of more infrastructure like Canals, Railroads, Roads, etc., which led to even better environment to produce for the consumer. For many countries, the government insistence of knowing all that may be wrong before providing citizens the freedom to create handicaps the entire process of wealth creation. It's interesting that much of what separates early America from the world was progressive leadership. Once the government recognizes what it has leverage in, it leaves the American market to create. Vital developments in radio, television, satellites, mainframe computing, and the Internet were achieved through military expenditures to win World War I & II, and thereafter left to the market to commercialize and make available for and to all. Some products of capitalism may appear mundane but their impacts are extraordinary. Take the typewriter as an example, this device was what brought the first thousands of women into the modern office setting. For what it's worth, I leave the book with a deep acknowledgment of the impact of Franklin Roosevelt on modern America and his intervention in the market. To guarantee the safety of bank deposits, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was created. To regulate the entire American stock and bond markets, the Exchange Act of 1933 required companies to report their financial condition accurately to the buying public, establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission. Safety nets such as Social Security for retirement and home loan guarantees for individuals were added to the government’s portfolio of responsibilities. Franklin created the largest peacetime escalation of government in American history. The effects are still felt today. I however disagree with some postulations in the book. Bhu claims Herbert Hoover lack of intervention in the market led to the Great Depression, yet he failed to mention that unemployment peaked 9 percent in December 1929 and was down to 6.3% in June 1930 until Hoover imposed higher tariffs to save American jobs by reducing imported goods, then unemployment rose above 20% in 1932 and stayed above 20 percent for 23 consecutive months. Bhu also praised Franklin Roosevelt for expanding federal intervention and credited the New Deal for ending the depression, yet I found it curious that he devoted just a few paragraphs to Ronald Reagan (mostly as a Hollywood star) and never mentioned his non-intervention in the 1987 stock market as President which was followed by two decades of economic growth with low unemployment. For someone who to conservatives is the very definition of limited government and the ability of markets to self-correct, I expected more to be said about Ronald Reagan in a book about American capitalism. The criticisms notwithstanding, I found Americana a thought-provoking and eye-opening book on the intricacies of the market and democracy. I took more notes on Google Keep reading this book than I did any other this year. I have had a few people I respect name it their best book of the years they have read it (it was published in 2017), and while I would not go as far as saying that it's my favourite book of the year, I would say it is one of the best history books I have read, perhaps because it's written by a polymath immigrant who offers perspectives I have seen many natives miss.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Pepe

    This book was an excellent intertwining of US history and capitalism. I enjoyed Srinivasan's writing style, and sheer detail he was able to include on so many industries, beginning with the Mayflower and ending with smart phones. While the book was in chronological order, which in and of itself was quite well done, each chapter reads as its own story on a specific industry so you can hop around if you'd like. From the Revolutionary war to tobacco, slavery, and the Civil War then on to railroads, This book was an excellent intertwining of US history and capitalism. I enjoyed Srinivasan's writing style, and sheer detail he was able to include on so many industries, beginning with the Mayflower and ending with smart phones. While the book was in chronological order, which in and of itself was quite well done, each chapter reads as its own story on a specific industry so you can hop around if you'd like. From the Revolutionary war to tobacco, slavery, and the Civil War then on to railroads, oil, and the industrial revolution - I found it very interesting to see how the country evolved from a land of immigrants to the powerhouse it is today - and how each industry formed and was capitalized. A few highlights for me were: the the Union forces using ships to cut off the south's exports to significantly cripple their economy during the Civil War, the formation of suburbia post-WW2, Rockefeller recognizing the value of the oil refinement process and using his shrewd practices to create a monopoly, Henry Ford's creation of the assembly line to create efficient production and a vehicle that his workers could afford, Prohibition's influence on organized crime through bootlegging, the early days of Silicon Valley, the creation of junk bonds to finance LBO's in the 80's, the sneaker culture created by Nike with the ultimate help of Michael Jordan, the battle between Netscape and Microsoft for the internet. Great read, highly recommended for this interested in both business and history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    In Americana, Bhu Srinivasan basically rewrites your high school US history textbook through an economic lens. It's a mildly interesting concept, and it leads to some fascinating anecdotes and a greater emphasis on certain points that tend to be overlooked in history lessons, but overall it doesn't have anything too orginal to say. For example, the fact that the collective value of salves in the South on the eve of the Civil War was in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and as such was the largest a In Americana, Bhu Srinivasan basically rewrites your high school US history textbook through an economic lens. It's a mildly interesting concept, and it leads to some fascinating anecdotes and a greater emphasis on certain points that tend to be overlooked in history lessons, but overall it doesn't have anything too orginal to say. For example, the fact that the collective value of salves in the South on the eve of the Civil War was in the neighborhood of $4 billion, and as such was the largest asset class in the US. I mean, I'm sure that general fact was mentioned in my high school history class, but it definitely wasn't the emphasis. Furthermore, the typical plantation owner was in debt, often using his slaves as collateral against future income from crops, or just to generally fund his lavish lifestyle. Srinivasan points out that even if a hypothetical abolitionist slaveowner wanted to free his slaves, he could no more do that than the average American today could donate their mortgaged home to charity. There are also a lot of really interesting tidbits about the various titans of industry of the Gilded Age - how they got started, interesting misadventures or political opions they had. (Did you know that Andrew Carnegie tried to buy the Philippines from the US government after the Spanish-American war in order to give the nation its independence?) But in the end, it doesn't amount to much of a coherent story. Without a driving narrative, it starts to drag on after a bit. I mean, anyone would be hard-pressed to weave a singular thread through 400 years. I feel like the whole thing would have worked better in a different format, which the author even mentions in some introductory material. This would have made a great podcast series. But as a book, best enjoyed in small pieces rather than all at once.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    It’s like a long string of interesting tidbits that have no relation to each other or a central theme. There’s no thesis here. What exactly is the author saying about capitalism? That it existed and led to certain products being created? This is at best a good first draft of an idea. In the end, you have a bit more knowledge about maybe a few stories you hadn’t already heard but no new ideas or really anything to mull over.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    A marvelous, well-told story of how capitalism shaped America. A fascinating alternative way to view American history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Intellectually Stimulating, Original Look at Forces Shaping American Economic Growth Author Bhu Srinivasan has chosen 35 separate developments that shaped the growth of American capitalism over 400 years. Each has its own short chapter, and the author has a fresh, often provocative insight into every one of them. For example: In the last 20 years we have seen the influence of venture capital as the source of funding for Silicon Valley and dot com startups. As such, it has been an engine contributin Intellectually Stimulating, Original Look at Forces Shaping American Economic Growth Author Bhu Srinivasan has chosen 35 separate developments that shaped the growth of American capitalism over 400 years. Each has its own short chapter, and the author has a fresh, often provocative insight into every one of them. For example: In the last 20 years we have seen the influence of venture capital as the source of funding for Silicon Valley and dot com startups. As such, it has been an engine contributing to American competitiveness. What was the first venture capital investment that shaped our history? Srinivasan argues it was The Mayflower. The Pilgrims had a mission but no money. Their voyage to America was a venture capital enterprise financed by English investors who hoped to make a killing (figuratively) as others risked their lives in the New World (literally). This investment didn’t work out for the investors but it shaped American history. How did canals and railroads jump start our capitalist system? Canals and railroads were capital intensive projects that called for new financial instruments. The bond market arose to finance canals. The stock market arose to finance railroads. In the first instance, user fees from the Erie Canal were sufficient to service the debt and transform transportation in early 19th Century America. Railroads were so capital intensive that equity had to be raised to supplement borrowing through the bond market. Was moral blindness the only reason the South clung to slavery? Not to discount the moral reasons to end slavery, the author additionally explores the economic forces that made it difficult for the South to consider abolition. Up until the Civil War, slaves were viewed as a better source of loan collateral than land. Slave owners were so in debt that it was economically difficult to free slaves even if their owners had wanted to do so. And the US government didn’t have the resources (nor the nation the political will) to buy the slave owners out and thus free all those in bondage. Srinivasan estimates that the capital tied up in slaves totaled $2.8 billion in 1859 yet the Federal budget that year was $69 million. (Such a “buyout" to free the slaves would have made both moral and economic sense, however, since in the end the Civil War cost the North an estimated $6.2 billion and the South some $2 billion.) What emerging new technology asked to be regulated?. The new industry of radio asked to be regulated. In fact, observes Srinivasan, radio couldn’t have developed without regulation. Marconi pointed out that radio frequencies had to be assigned by government or broadcasters would be broadcasting over one another and the technology wouldn’t work. What new product required government regulation of consumers rather than manufacturers? As Americans took to the roads in their newly purchased automobiles, it quickly became apparent that the buyers needed to be regulated, not so much the manufacturers. Government quickly established rules of the road for drivers, and required vehicle registration and drivers’ licenses. In almost every chapter, the author made me think about a development in a new way, and see how it shaped America’s economic growth. Srinivasan is an engaging writer, and the bite-size chapters make this a book that can be read in installments. As to Srinivasan’s originality of thought, it’s interesting that he arrived in the US from India at age 8. His ability to offer fresh and novel insights has likely contributed to his success as a venture capitalist. It certainly has made for a stimulating and entertaining book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    This book is an entertaining textbook. Like most textbooks, there are no women or people of color named as inventors, or really named at all (aside from the institution of slavery). A chapter opens by applauding all the men inventors who pushed society "forward": "Some inventor, somewhere, has often paid the price of seemingly endless frustration, dispiriting self-doubt, and years of thankless toil. And this frustration is usually layered upon a foundation of centuries of other men's fruitless t This book is an entertaining textbook. Like most textbooks, there are no women or people of color named as inventors, or really named at all (aside from the institution of slavery). A chapter opens by applauding all the men inventors who pushed society "forward": "Some inventor, somewhere, has often paid the price of seemingly endless frustration, dispiriting self-doubt, and years of thankless toil. And this frustration is usually layered upon a foundation of centuries of other men's fruitless trials and errors. Such men usually die before their work crystalizes into any practical application." The way it's written, you'd assume women had done nothing to contribute in the entirety of American history. The book also lacks any kind of critical analysis *of* capitalism, which is what I was looking for. I was drawn to this book because I heard an interview with him on the radio in which he said that capitalism is neither good nor bad; it can be used to subjugate people, uplift people, or both. Like electricity. While I wasn't expecting this book to be super critical of capitalism, I was expecting SOME thought-provoking questions, which were non-existent. His lionizing titans of industry is almost...pathetic. And he doesn't mention important, unsavory characteristics of these titans. For example: a glaring omission is the fact that Henry Ford was a RAVING anti-Semite (seriously, look it up...why does NO ONE ever mention this fact?!). The whole tone of the book is like that of a child looking up to an older sibling. It almost feels like he's caping for capitalism. He also fails to mention the effects of the unequal application of the GI Bill, which led white veterans to college and homeownership. Minorities, mostly black people but also Jewish people and others, were denied these benefits. They didn't get to go to college, they didn't get to amass wealth through their houses and send their own kids to college. (When the Fair Housing Act passed, it was too late to have any reversal effect to help close the gap.) He doesn't mention redlining, block-busting, or the myriad other ways in which opportunity was closed to non-white people and women. Apparently we were just all on the sidelines, twiddling our thumbs. Srinivasan wrote a book that reassures white America that the myths they were raised on are true. And while I am glad I was born and grew up here, and am very thankful for the life I am able to live here, this country is very fucked up. A reason it's fucked up is because of capitalism; even if you're very right-wing and believe that we are some kind of unicorn country immune from any of the ills that have plagued society for millennia, I'd hope that you would want to wrestle with capitalism's critics, just for the mental exercise. Hell, I think I'd prefer reading a more analytical book written by a right-winger...at least I would get some sort of exercise out of it, even if I hated every word I read. The only reason I'm giving this book three stars is because it IS entertaining. And I did learn some interesting things. But it misses a great opportunity: to take a breath, look back and see if the past can inform the future. If you want a well written, uncritical textbook that may as well have been written in the 50s, this is it. Not a waste of time, but a good place to start learning about capitalism's role in the creation of the US. Good as an overview that regurgitates uncritical dates and events but doesn't dive very deep.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anantha Narayan

    Americana is a fascinating look into the various capitalistic ventures in America’s history, ranging from tobacco, cotton, and gold to slavery and from various industries to the American way of life. And in all of this, there’s a common thread, first voiced by Adam Smith — despite the risk of total loss, money finds its way to opportunity when the potential rewards are high enough. For a non-American like me, the nuances and origins of many of these were extremely interesting, especially factors Americana is a fascinating look into the various capitalistic ventures in America’s history, ranging from tobacco, cotton, and gold to slavery and from various industries to the American way of life. And in all of this, there’s a common thread, first voiced by Adam Smith — despite the risk of total loss, money finds its way to opportunity when the potential rewards are high enough. For a non-American like me, the nuances and origins of many of these were extremely interesting, especially factors such as slavery or anti-completive behaviour, which are clearly to be hated now but have played a role in America’s progress. In all of this, it is interesting to see how history repeats itself. The formation of “trusts” to overcome laws against pricing collusion and the government’s battles against them in the nineteenth century seems to have its echoes even now. The concept of venture or risk capital used to finance the first shipload of passengers to America came back after 350 years to fund technology companies. Or corporate America’s tendency to latch on to investor fads have remained unchanged from the time pointless trusts were formed to the time when existing companies rechristened themselves as “dotcoms” towards the end of the last century. Given the vast number of topics covered, there may be an element of superficiality in their coverage but Srinivasan’s focus is more on making it comprehensive rather than detailed. His writing is pacy and interesting which makes the 500+ page length quite easy to read. He makes an attempt at humour as well, as when he sardonically explains the movie Pretty Woman away by saying that it is entirely plausible that a call girl could serve as the moral compass for a financier! A bonus is the presence of several interesting factoids through the book. For example, slaves formed the single biggest asset class around 1850 with an estimated value of US$2.8 billion at that time. Or the origin of the term, “$300 man” is from the Civil War where rich men could pay that amount for a substitute to take their place. Or that the Remington typewriter is probably what facilitated women into the white-collared working class! Pros: A comprehensive look into nearly all of America’s capitalistic ventures, pacy and interesting Cons: Some superficiality in the coverage of topics PS: Please visit http://ananthabookreviews.blogspot.com for other book reviews.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Saad

    Very much enjoyed this book. Author did a wonderful job discussing the economic history of the US. It is written in chronological order - making the reader wander through America in different ages while making analogies to modern day. I really liked the analogy of mayflower settlers being funded by venture capital. Showing the early risk appetite which is inherent in the makeup of the US. I learned a lot about the history of the South and the economics of slavery explaining the responses to policy Very much enjoyed this book. Author did a wonderful job discussing the economic history of the US. It is written in chronological order - making the reader wander through America in different ages while making analogies to modern day. I really liked the analogy of mayflower settlers being funded by venture capital. Showing the early risk appetite which is inherent in the makeup of the US. I learned a lot about the history of the South and the economics of slavery explaining the responses to policy and ensuing civil war. At a pure and somewhat controversial basis, the south had borrowed significant funds from banks w workforce being the primary asset they borrowed against. Both lenders and businessmen had an intertwined interest. Beyond racist rationale there was a pure economic rational / reality which dictated policy decisions. The relationship btw economic players and government at the time of FDR govr interventionist policy was also quite forthtelling. The breadth of the New Deal and how it mobilized the whole nation's industrial and economic assets is incredible. The author talks about the plans relative to the economy and to present day comparisons. Incredibly mind-blowing! Overall just wonderful. I listened to it as a audiobook and thinking of getting a hardcopy and keeping w me. Learned a lot and will keep appreciating every time I read it. In college I took an economic history class which involved covering four countries and reading 2 case studies of leading companies in those countries. The four countries were US, Germany, UK and Japan. And our professor was a economic historian from Japan 🇯🇵! Learned so much! Seeing the topic of this book I was certain will very much enjoy! Highly recommend for all those interested in economic history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roman Tsegelskyi

    What an amazing book! The Economist had this book in their list of 'Best Books of 2017' and after overcoming initial skepticism (after all author is of rather unexpected background), I decided to read it and it has totally surpassed all my wildest expectations. The book is structured in a way of explaining every major innovation since the Mayflower expedition to set up a settlement in North America and how each of those innovations came to life, their effect on their respective time and beyond. I What an amazing book! The Economist had this book in their list of 'Best Books of 2017' and after overcoming initial skepticism (after all author is of rather unexpected background), I decided to read it and it has totally surpassed all my wildest expectations. The book is structured in a way of explaining every major innovation since the Mayflower expedition to set up a settlement in North America and how each of those innovations came to life, their effect on their respective time and beyond. It is a very high-level overview that doesn't go too deep into details, trends and especially connections, but I am not sure that it would have been possible to write otherwise given the scope. Nevertheless, it is really engaging and even at 30,000-feet view allows to spot some major reasons for US success and the changing relationship of US federal government with business, while opening eyes to some pretty obscure facts and stories. I definitely enjoyed reading it and the whole book felt like one exciting wild ride with the continuous curiosity of what is the next big story. Definitely, recommend this book!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Yunger

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is a great high level overview of the largest economic developments over the last 400 years. For people who are looking to dive deep into American history I would use this book as a jumping off point. The book gives a overview of how economics, politics and policy evolved over the years. The historical events such as the major wars are presented from the economics perspective which was not the way I was taught in school and was interesting to read. For me the earlier chapters were much This book is a great high level overview of the largest economic developments over the last 400 years. For people who are looking to dive deep into American history I would use this book as a jumping off point. The book gives a overview of how economics, politics and policy evolved over the years. The historical events such as the major wars are presented from the economics perspective which was not the way I was taught in school and was interesting to read. For me the earlier chapters were much more eye opening. The part that stood out was the institutionalization of slavery. I have some knowledge about slavery but never from the perspective of hard cold business, slave trading auctions and the valuation of slave hands. Reading this book at times felt earie as historical situations sounded very similar to present day, for example post depression financial stimulus. Also the history of department stores reminded me that all of the companies today that are at the top of the world are likely to be dead or irrelevant in 50 years. *Perhaps this rule wont hold in the information technology age, but I would bet it does.

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