Shortlist and Winner IBP 2007 Humanities

Shortlist and Winner IBP 2007 Humanities

Winner of IBP 2007 Humanities

Madeleine Zelin, The Merchants of Zigong. Columbia University Press, 2006.
This pathbreaking study of industrial enterprise in 19th and early 20th century China is based on extensive archival research. It  focuses on private entrepreneurs in Zigong, the largest industrial town in its time in northern China. Zelin convincingly shows that lineage-based clan groups provided the basis for effective business organisation, capital investment, industrial management, and business innovation. This finding challenges longstanding claims about state monopoly of the salt industry in late imperial China, and it demonstrates the capacity of entrepreneurs to pool financial resources through lineage-based trusts to organise and manage their businesses through customary contracts. Magisterial in scope and subtle and intricate in historical analysis, this work forces us to rethink not only the history of economic development in modern China, but modernity itself.


Shortlist IBP 2007 Humanities

Mark Metzler, Lever of Empire: The International Gold Standard and the Crisis of Liberalism in Prewar Japan. University of California Press, 2006.
The re-introduction if the gold standard in 1930 is often cited as one of the important reasons why Japanese politics veered away from parliamentary politics, conducted by liberal, democratic parties, to rightwing activism by extra-parliamentary groups. Metzler addresses this important episode directly, paying due attention to all the fiscal and economic aspects involved – aspects that as a rule are given scant treatment, because most scholars do not possess Metzler’s expertise in economic history and theory. The author does more than this, however; he also treats the political issues such as party politics that impinged on the decision to reintroduce the convertibility of gold, and the personalities of the politicians and officials involved. The book is well-written, intelligently argued, and throughout characterized by a solid mastery of primary sources.

Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells, Nature and Nation: Forests and Development in Peninsular Malaysia. NIAS Press, 2005 (co-published by Singapore University Press and the University of Hawai’i Press)
An important subject and an excellent book. The author discusses the fate of the Malayan forests over a time span of more than two centuries, covering the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods. The continuities and discontinuities that she brings out between these three periods are enlightening. In this study, she addresses the exploration and investigation of the Malayan jungle, its exploitation, and more recent attempts at conservation. She also pays due attention to the sociological aspect, the fate of the people who dwelt and dwell in these forests and the crisis their gradual reclamation brought about in lifestyles and social organization. The research is solid, and the argument is based on a thorough knowledge of primary sources.