Cigarettes, Inc.An Intimate History of Corporate Imperialism

Cigarettes, Inc.An Intimate History of Corporate Imperialism

Nan Enstad

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226533285

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Too often, notions of capitalist change rely on the myth of the willful entrepreneur from the global North who transforms the economy and delivers modernity—for good or ill—to the rest of the world. Cigarettes Inc. offers an intimate cultural history that upends this story, revealing the myriad cross-cultural encounters that produced all levels of corporate life prior to World War II. In this startling new account of corporate innovation and expansion, this book uncovers a corporate network rooted in Jim Crow segregation that stretched between the United States and China. Hundreds of white southerners, bright leaf tobacco, cigarettes, and industry expertise flowed through this multinational network. Cigarettes, Inc. teems with a global cast—from Egyptian, American, and Chinese entrepreneurs to a multiracial set of farmers, merchants, factory workers, marketers, and even baseball players, jazz musicians, and sex workers. Through their stories, Cigarettes, Inc. newly accounts for the cigarette’s spectacular rise in popularity and in the process offers nothing less than a sweeping reinterpretation of the corporation and its relationship to empire.