Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
American Big Business in Britain and Germany

American Big Business in Britain and Germany: A Comparative History of Two "Special Relationships" in the 20th Century

Volker R. Berghahn
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 368
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    American Big Business in Britain and Germany
    Book Description:

    While America's relationship with Britain has often been deemed unique, especially during the two world wars when Germany was a common enemy, the American business sector actually had a greater affinity with Germany for most of the twentieth century.American Big Business in Britain and Germanyexamines the triangular relationship between the American, British, and German business communities and how the special relationship that Britain believed it had with the United States was supplanted by one between America and Germany.

    Volker Berghahn begins with the pre-1914 period and moves through the 1920s, when American investments supported German reconstruction rather than British industry. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to a reversal in German-American relations, forcing American corporations to consider cutting their losses or collaborating with a regime that was inexorably moving toward war. Although Britain hoped that the wartime economic alliance with the United States would continue after World War II, the American business community reconnected with West Germany to rebuild Europe's economy. And while Britain thought they had established their special relationship with America once again in the 1980s and 90s, in actuality it was the Germans who, with American help, had acquired an informal economic empire on the European continent.

    American Big Business in Britain and Germanyuncovers the surprising and differing relationships of the American business community with two major European trading partners from 1900 through the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5029-7
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book is an attempt to examine three interrelated problems that not only historians but also social scientists have been grappling with at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The first one is how to deal conceptually and empirically with the role of the United States as a major socioeconomic, political-military, and cultural power since its emergence on the international stage at around 1900, and hence with the meaning and significance of “Americanization” and the resistance and adaptation to its impact by nations that came under its spell.

    Second, there is the notion of the “special relationship” that America is...

  4. I The North Atlantic Business Triangle and the Constellation of 1900–1901
    (pp. 22-56)

    Against the background of the analytical framework within which the American-British-German business and political relationship will be seen in this book, the year 1900 offers a good starting point, and for three reasons. To begin with, this was the year when both the Europeans and the Americans were looking back on the nineteenth century that had just ended and ahead to the twentieth. Germany and the United States did so in an overall mood of optimism, believing that, generally speaking, their future would be as bright as the previous decades had been. Britain by contrast was less certain.

    Second, it...

  5. II Cooperation, Peaceful Competition, and the Specter of War, 1902–1914
    (pp. 57-104)

    The previous chapter examined British-American and German-American economic and political relations at the turn of the century on the basis of William Stead’s appeal to reunite the English-speaking world. It also dealt with the information and impressions that Frank Vanderlip, a well-known and perceptive Wall Street banker, had gathered on his trips to Britain and Germany in 1901. The aim of this chapter is to trace how American business relations with the two major industrial powers of Europe developed up to 1914. As will be seen, the economic ties with Britain had been weakening for several years, but then saw...

  6. III From the Outbreak of War in July 1914 to the Genoa Conference, 1922
    (pp. 105-159)

    Decades of research into the immediate origins of World War I have resulted in the generally accepted view that a small group of political and military decision makers in Berlin and Vienna deliberately escalated into a major war the smaller regional conflicts in the Balkans that had been going on for many years. In July 1914 they became a threat to the rest of the world, following the assassinations of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Ferdinand, and his wife by Serb nationalists at Sarajevo.

    While there is still some debate on the role of Tsarist Russia in this...

  7. IV The North Atlantic Triangle: ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION AND COLLAPSE, 1923–1933
    (pp. 160-226)

    The years covered by this chapter began with a further deepening of the postwar crisis, culminating in the occupation of the Ruhr industrial region by French and Belgian troops. The Germans resorted to passive resistance to the occupiers’ efforts to extract reparations by force, followed by the collapse of the German economy, with hyperinflation reaching astronomical figures in the autumn of 1923. Due to the radical German reaction, the French economy also suffered quite badly. The heavy industries of Lorraine were hit hard, and the franc had to be devalued. The years that followed the 1923 crisis ended with another...

  8. V Nazi Germany, Appeasement, and Anglo-American Big Business, 1933–1941
    (pp. 227-285)

    In terms of the overall argument of this book, this chapter, covering the years up to the official American entry into World War II on the side of Britain and the Soviet Union against Germany, Italy, and Japan, presents a most dramatic moment in world history. It was during the years 1933–41 that strategies were developed by those six countries and then turned into actual policies that determined the shape of the relations of American big business with Britain and Germany during the subsequent wartime and postwar periods. And this decade was also decisive for the organization of both...

  9. VI British and German Business and Politics under the Pax Americana, 1941–1957
    (pp. 286-354)

    Before examining the third round in the German-American-British business relationship from 1941 to 1957, it is important to stress how right Roosevelt, Morgenthau, and other key members of the U.S. administration were in suspecting that Hitler was everything but an “ordinary politician” with whom deals could be struck. Together with Italy and Japan, he had begun to launch the first stage of his violent conquest of “living space,” at first against Poland in September 1939 and from 22 June 1941 against the Soviet Union. After consolidating his European victories, including those he had won in 1940 in Western and Northern...

  10. Conclusions
    (pp. 355-364)

    For the period up to World War I, it became clear that the elites of the United States, and its businessmen on the East and West Coasts in particular, saw their country as a highly dynamic and modern industrial and financial power. Based on the idea of a competitive capitalism, American big business, in the wake of the great merger wave of the late nineteenth century and congressional legislation that had banned the formation of cartels and monopolies, developed in the direction of an oligopolistic market organization. These developments shaped corporate attitudes and practices toward the domestic and international economy...

    (pp. 365-366)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 367-376)