2016 Richard Robinson Business History Workshop
Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 6:30pm to Saturday, April 30, 2016 - 5:30pm

Richard Robinson Business History Workshop

Business and Environment in History:
Dealing in Nature and Ecology, Past and Futures

April 28-30, 2016

Thursday, April 28, at 6:00 pm in Smith Student Union Center, Room 238
Friday, April 29, from 10:00 am in Smith Student Union Center, Room 327
Saturday, April 30, from 8:45 am in Smith Student Union Center, Room 327




Sponsored by the Portland State University Department of History and the Friends of History. All sessions are free and open to the public, and will take place on the PSU campus. While the panel sessions on 29-30 April will be of interest primarily to specialists, the panel evening panel discussion on April 28 and the keynote lecture on April 29 are also intended for the larger Portland community.

This year's Richard Robinson Business History Workshop offers a global perspective on the intersections between business history and environmental history. The Workshop aims to illuminate the ways that, varying according to time and place, conceptions of nature and environmental resources interacted with practices in commerce and business, especially in connection to our everyday experiences. This Workshop event opens with a panel discussion by PSU faculty on the evening of April 28. The keynote address will be delivered the following evening, April 29, by Professor Harold James of Princeton University. Six panel discussions on April 29 and 30 will deal with such topics as attempts to master and transform the landscape, problems arising from dependency on monoculture, the danger of overharvesting, pollution and other externalities, the exploitation of non-renewable resources, and the role of the state in managing both the economy and the environment. Regions covered by the workshop papers include the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia

Co-organized by Thomas Luckett and Chia Yin Hsu of Portland State University, and Erika Vause of Florida Southern College.

Those interested in attending the panels are welcome to read the papers beforehand. For access to the papers, please send email to: @



Panel Discussion with PSU Faculty: "Business, Environment & the Northwest: Historical Perspectives"

Thursday, April 28, 2016 at 6:30pm
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) 238
FREE and open to the public 

6:30-8:00  Panel discussion by PSU faculty 


  • Catherine C. McNeur (PSU): "Environmental History: The State of the Field"
  • Joseph E. Bohling (PSU): "Business History: The State of the Field"
  • Joshua D. Binus (PSU & Bonneville Power Administration): "The History of Sustainable Business in the Pacific Northwest"


Keynote Address:"Energy, the Environment, and the Modern World" 

by Harold James, Professor of History, Princeton University
Friday, April 29, 2016 at 6:30pm
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) 238
FREE and open to the public


In what ways do the rapid development of energy hungry emerging markets 
challenge the present institutions of global governance?

A modern consensus among economic historians sees the use of fossil fuel during the nineteenth century as the primary mechanism through which the humans broke out of the Malthusian trap, but there are increasing questions about the sustainability of this model.  

The application of mechanical power derived from fossil-fuel resources allowed substantial increases in productivity. It also changed the course of competition among states, so that nineteenth-century conflicts centered around coal, and in the twentieth century, around petroleum. Some historians have noted that in the course of the twentieth century, growth became increasingly dematerialized, e.g. less dependent on resource inputs. The power constraints, however, remained, because of the difficulty in transporting energy.

This lecture looks at the way in which energy cooperation is managed and how different countries reconcile different risk preferences regarding global warming, nuclear energy, the vulnerability of external supplies to political interruption, and the problems of systemic overload.  

About Harold James 

Harold James is Professor of History at Princeton University and holds a joint appointment as Professor of International Affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He studies economic and financial history and is a specialist on German economic history and globalization. 

Mr. James is the author or co-author of more than 10 books, including, International Monetary Cooperation Since Bretton WoodsThe Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle; and Making the European Monetary Union



Panel Discussions

Friday, April 29
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) 327

10:00am -11:45am
Panel 1: Mastering the Landscape 
Discussant: ChiaYin Hsu


  • "We Like Flying All Year 'Round: Seasonality and the Winter Imaginary at Trans Canada Air Lines, 1947-1955" | Blair SteinUniversity of Oklahoma

  • "The Production of Space in Western Canada: Post Offices, Railroads and Settlement, 1850-1900"
    Gustavo VelascoLondon School of Economics

  • "Unexpected Turns of Iron: A Railroad across South America for All the Right Reasons by the Wrong People"
    Friedrich E. SchulerPortland State University

1:00pm - 2:45pm   
Panel 2: Society and Monoculture 
Discussant: Thomas M. Luckett


  • "Planter’s Paradise: Agricultural Science and Sugarcane Planting in Early-Twentieth-Century Hawai'i"
    Lawrence H. Kessler,Temple University
  • "The Black Patch War, Environmental Literature, and the Politics of History" 
    Nicolette I. BrunerWestern Kentucky University
  • "Making Eden Prosperous in Nineteenth-Century Mexico"
    Casey M. LurtzHarvard University

3:15pm - 5:00pm   
Panel 3: Overharvesting
Discussant: Erika Vause


  • "States of Control: How Fisheries Became Commons and Commons Became Tragic"
    Gregory H. Ferguson-CradlerPrinceton University
  • "Artisanal Fishing in the Persian/Arabian Gulf's Mediocre Environment" 
    Noah Haiduc-DaleCentenary College
  • "From the 'world granary' to its 'burning lungs': multinational companies and the ecological question in the globalization of the Amazon" | Antoine AckerUniversity of Turin 


Panel Discussions

Saturday, April 30
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) 327

8:45am -10:30am
PSU Student Panel
Discussant: Thomas M. Luckett


  • "Fighting for a Fair and Equitable Share: Tribal Treaty Rights and Northwest Fisheries Management after the Belloni and Boldt Decisions" | Joshua L. RossPortland State University
  • "Florida's Gold and Florida's Freezes: Climate and the Citrus Industry in Central Florida"
    Michael LeakeFlorida Southern College
  • "Salt Mining and Subsidence in Cheshire County, England"
    Michael DavidsonFlorida Southern College 
  • "'A Frame to the Beautiful Picture which He Created': Envisioning and Engineering the Columbia River Highway, 1913–1922"  | Taylor E. RosePortland State University


10:45am - 12:00pm              
Panel 4: Environmental Externalities
Discussant: Erika Vause


  • "The Price of Being Green: Business, Nature, and Maine’s 'Industrial Ecosystem'" 
    David B. CohenBrandeis University
  • "'Knock the EPA Out!': Coal, Politics and the Battle over the Clean Air Act"
    Allen Dieterich-WardShippensburg University 


1:30pm - 3:15 pm   
Panel 5: Extracting Non-Renewable Resources
Discussant: Thomas M. Luckett


  • "Effects Upon the Progression of a Society and Its Business Structures Due to Dependency Upon a Nonrenewable Resource: The San Juan Mining Region" | Mark P. A. CiotolaSan Francisco State University
  • "Bringing Industry into the Open: How the Anaconda Company Managed New Environmental Hazards During the Shift from Underground to Open-Pit Mining in Mid-Twentieth Century Montana"  
    Brian LeechAugustana College
  • "Routes of Conflict: Texas Oil Networks and the Regulation of Nature"
    Sarah Stanford-McIntyreCollege of William & Mary


3:45pm - 5:15pm   
Panel 6: Environmental Impact of State Intervention in the Economy 
Discussant: Chia Yin Hsu


  • "The End of Proálcool and the Rise of the Neoliberal State: The Brazilian Ethanol Industry in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, 1985-1990" | Jennifer N. EaglinMichigan State University
  • "Nature, Tariffs, and Food: Protectionism and Free Trade in the Global Wheat Trade 1846-1918"
    Thomas D. FingerUniversity of Northern Arizona
  • "Making the Maoist Enterprise: Ideology, Ecology, and the Transformation of Industrial Business in Early People's Republic of China" | Zhaojin ZengUniversity of Texas-Austin