MODERN EUROPE IN ITS GLOBAL CONTEXTS
FROM THE VIA DELL'ALLORA TO THE EVOLUTION OF CAPITALISM
In 2016 and 2017, a group of freshly-minted PhDs gathered regularly in a small studio apartment in the narrow Florentine alleyway, Via dell’Alloro. While the nearby European University Institute that hosted us seemed like an island of peace and calm, we were all aware and somewhat disturbed by the profound insecurities and problems that surrounded us: in Florence, Italy, Europe, and beyond. Armed with bottles of cheap but quality Chianti, we decided to wage war against our ignorance and take the historical dimensions of our current economic problems seriously.
Thanks to Marta Musso’s efforts, The Institute for New Economic Thinking decided to broadcast selected seminars, making them into discussions available to a broader circle of people. We discussed the state of our current economies; evolving social and political situations; the role of capital, labor and technologies; comparable times and unprecedented events; and new data to try and understand what are, at the bottom line, the true engines of history.
As of today, participants in this informal gathering have taken up academic and research positions far from via dell’Alloro in California, Massachusetts, Birmingham, London, and Singapore, to name a few. This podcast aims to recapture the spirit of these conversations and offer some glimpses into the historical aspects of our current economic predicament. As historians of capitalism, we take culture, social history, and ideas seriously. Our aim is to give a voice to historians, social scientists, and writers who are otherwise less heard in contemporary discussions about the economy and its history. On the other hand, as of History of Capitalism summer camp, a Cornell program dedicated to familiarize historians with economics, have had the chance to learn, researchers of capitalism’s past need to take economists seriously and not shy away from learning the nuts and bolts of accounting, and macroeconomics, either.
While there are several podcasts on the economy and even economic history online, the history of capitalism field has traditionally centered on America, and more narrowly, the United States. The Evolution of Capitalism podcast focuses on Europe in its global contexts, including Southeast Asia and the Americas.
Inspirations for the podcast were many. Working with Holly Case and her East-Central Europe Past and Present Blog showed that recording interviews with a variety of people living in or working on East-Central Europe has an appeal to broader audiences. Having a podcast is also an excuse to talk to interesting people. As one of Holly’s interviewees, a 1956 émigré to the US, has pointed out, he really missed the Stalinist years of the 1950s in Hungary. As he explained, that was the last time he could devote long stretches of time for conversations with friends, a pastime that proved to be a luxury in the corporate America of the 1960s and 1970s. The Evolution of Capitalism Podcast thus hopes to enable conversations and debates that may otherwise not take place. The podcast is also an attempt to recreate the spirit of some of the conversations at Via dell’Alloro.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Mate Rigo is a historian of 19th and 20th-century Europe with interests in the history of capitalism, empire, and transnational history in East-Central and Western Europe. He is currently completing a book manuscript on the business elites of Austria-Hungary and Germany during and after the First World War. The book investigates why business dynasties that came to prominence in the German and Austro-Hungarian monarchies continued to thrive despite the collapse of empires after 1918, and why there is more continuity among elite groups in East-Central than in Western Europe. The project is based on the records of industrialist families, government documents, pamphlets, newspapers, and literature, spanning 16 archives, five languages, and more than six turbulent decades of European history.
A native of Hungary, he earned a Ph.D. at Cornell and continued his research as a Max Weber Fellow at the EUI in Florence. Together with Marta Musso, he enjoyed convening the Evolution of Capitalism reading group through the platform of the Institute for New Economic Thinking while in Florence. He is currently based in Singapore, where his teaching at Yale-NUS College places European history in its global contexts.