Social capital and trade associations in America, c. 1860-1914: a microhistory approach

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This microhistory explores the activities of one of the many trade associations created in the nineteenth century in the US. Qualitative evidence is used to engage with the concepts of competition, cooperation, and social capital. This article explores the reasons why cooperation emerged between competing economic agents, as an intended outcome of associational activity. It is argued that trade associations are forms of voluntary association consciously established to achieve economic aims and create networks of sociability. These, in turn, generated social capital used by economic agents to avoid ruinous competition and to capture political, economic, and social resources. 'Why make things simple when one can make them complicated?'


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)905-928
Number of pages24
JournalThe Economic History Review
Issue number3
Early online date14 Feb 2011
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011