Jamie Martin - "The Meddlers" - Tara Zahra

Monday, May 15, 2023 - 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin will discuss The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire, and the Birth of Global Economic Governance. He will be joined in conversation by Tara Zahra.

Presented in partnership with Law, Letters, and Society and The Chicago Center on Democracy

This event will be held in person at The Seminary Co-op. At this time, masks are required for in-store events.


About the book: International economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank exert incredible influence over the domestic policies of many states. These institutions date from the end of World War II and amassed power during the neoliberal era of the late twentieth century. But as Jamie Martin shows, if we want to understand their deeper origins and the ideas and dynamics that shaped their controversial powers, we must turn back to the explosive political struggles that attended the birth of global economic governance in the early twentieth century. The Meddlers tells the story of the first international institutions to govern the world economy, including the League of Nations and Bank for International Settlements, created after World War I. These institutions endowed civil servants, bankers, and colonial authorities from Europe and the United States with extraordinary powers: to enforce austerity, coordinate the policies of independent central banks, oversee development programs, and regulate commodity prices. In a highly unequal world, they faced a new political challenge: was it possible to reach into sovereign states and empires to intervene in domestic economic policies without generating a backlash? The Meddlers shows how the fraught problems of sovereignty and democracy posed by institutions like the IMF are not unique to late twentieth-century globalization, but instead first emerged during an earlier period of imperial competition, world war, and economic crisis.

About the author: Jamie Martin is an international historian with a focus on the history of international political economy and empire, particularly during the era of the world wars. He is the author of The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire, and the Birth of Global Economic Governance (Harvard University Press, 2022). He has published widely on the political economy of the world wars, international institutions, the history of commodities, and the intellectual history of crisis. His public writing - on topics such as the history of central banking, financial crisis, and global governance - has also appeared in The New York Times, The London Review of Books, The Nation, n+1, Dissent, Bookforum, and The Guardian.

About the interlocutor: Tara Zahra is the Homer J. Livingston Professor of East European History and the College at UChicago. Her research focuses on the transnational history of modern Europe, migration, the family, nationalism, and humanitarianism. Her latest book, Against the World: Anti-Globalism and Mass Politics Between the World Wars will be published by W.W. Norton Press in 2023. With Pieter Judson, she is currently working on a history of the First World War in the Habsburg Empire. Zahra is also the author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration and the Making of the Free World (Norton, 2016) and, with Leora Auslander, Objects of War: The Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement (Cornell, 2018). Her previous books include The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011) and Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands (Cornell, 2008).

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637