Date of Award

5-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Jared Poley

Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle Brattain

Third Advisor

Dr. Alexander Cummings

Abstract

This dissertation is a study of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) from its inception in 1919 to the Brussels Conference in 1925. The study argues, based upon evidence from ICC conference proceedings and reports that the ICC, as well as the League of Nations, was part of the pre-war Allied (the United States, Great Britain, and France) imperial project that sought to maintain Allied global hegemony following the Great War. The businessmen of the ICC, who had numerous Allied political ties, were descendants of the social Darwinist milieu, which guided their thought processes and perceptions of the world. Their belief that they operated in a globalized world was, therefore, a misconception. Business leaders were mistakenly convinced that free trade would create and maintain world peace. Business and government operated through a symbiotic relationship throughout the 1920s. Fledgling industries, including automotive and air transport, relied upon government assistance. Thus, Allied and corporate international manipulation of markets was cloaked in the rhetoric of “free trade.” Furthermore, ICC business leaders, operating during the Progressive Era’s focus upon scientific efficiency, were convinced that mass production was the key to rebuilding the global economy in the aftermath of the Great War. Evidence shows that the political economic system erected by the bankers, businessmen and politicians of the 1920s helped lay the foundations for the Great Depression. The system, controlled by the Allied powers, included the gold standard system of international fiduciary exchange, trade regimes operated under the auspices of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, Allied multinational corporate (MNC) control of Latin America and the Middle East, via electrical MNCs and oil MNCs, and the control and manipulation of labor and migration.

This study contributes to the literature concerning the causes of the Great Depression as well as studies regarding global capitalism. Moreover, the evidence contained within this work suggests that many parts of the neoliberalist argument are actually rooted in the 1920s rather than the late 1970s.

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