Liane Hewitt

Graduate Student

Dissertation Title:
"Monopoly Menace: The Rise and Fall of Cartel Capitalism in Western Europe, 1918-1957"

I am a historian of political economy and international order in Western Europe’s long twentieth century. My work examines how the European economy was contested, organized and governed, especially through the lens of struggles over big business and monopoly power. Broad topics of interest range from state-market relations, business & labor organization, private vs. public planning of the economy, antitrust/competition policy (and its alternatives), varieties of capitalism (especially ownership models), fascism, war and reconstruction, internationalism and federalism.   

My dissertation explores the rise and fall of European “cartel capitalism” in the long transwar moment. I argue that a reckoning with the “cartel question” by wide sectors of society (government officials and politicians, economists, legal scholars and war crimes tribunals, wartime resistance fighters, socialists and labour groups, industry and organized consumers) was central to the transformation of European capitalism and global governance from the 1890s through the end of the 1950s. From the downturn of the 1880s and 1890s through the interwar crisis, cartels proliferated across Europe. Nearly all contemporaries viewed cartels positively as the optimal means of organizing markets and stabilizing an increasingly unstable economy, reducing social conflict, managing growing tensions over free trade and protectionism and providing the scaffolding for a more rationalized and unified European economy. After World War II, cartels would suddenly become delegitimized and illegal across the continent, while the European Coal and Steel Community (1951), followed by the European Economic Community (1957) would be founded on the principle of decartelization. It is this great reversal, and all its implications, which my dissertation seeks to grapple with and ultimately explain.

Much of my current thinking sprung from research on the European and international co-operative movement: a movement which diagnosed and anticipated many of the developments of European and global capitalism in the early twentieth century, notably the rise of consumer and monopoly capitalism.

During the 2021-22 academic year, I will be away on research leave as a visiting student at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Summer & Fall 2021), then at Sciences-Po Paris (Spring 2022). My dissertation research is generously supported by the Social Sciences Research Council-IDRF, the Chateaubriand Fellowship, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Fondation Jean Monnet pour l’Europe.

Prospective students interested in studying modern European or economic history at Princeton should feel more than welcome to reach out. I have been delighted to co-convene the Modern Europe Workshop for two years and to co-found the Economic History Workshop with my colleague Robert Yee.

Degree Year
Year of Study
Seventh Year
Area of Interest
Economic History
Intellectual History
Labor History
Legal History
Political History
Social History
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