The German Historical Institute Washington DC (GHI) is launching an ambitious new project aimed at fostering research into two cornerstones of the American experience. Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present will comprise a published collection of approximately 250 biographical articles of first and second generation German-American entrepreneurs, contextual essays that explore the wider business and immigration themes of the period, and a complementary website providing a wealth of additional material.
The United States famously declares itself “a nation of immigrants” and “the land of opportunity.” The importance of immigration in the nation’s economic development – be it as a source of low-cost labor or of highly skilled human capital – has long been acknowledged. Similarly, the American economic system’s openness to entrepreneurial activity is generally recognized as one of its defining characteristics and a central factor in its continued vitality. However, while the links between immigration and entrepreneurship have often been noted, they have received surprisingly little systematic, in-depth analysis in the field of history.
German immigrants and their descendants have played a disproportionately large role in the American business community. The project will trace their lives, careers and business ventures from Colonial times to the present, integrating the history of German-American immigration into the larger narrative of U.S. economic and business history and situating the American past in a transnational framework. Key questions that will be addressed include the importance of ethnic networks, regional identities, religion, business strategies and change over time.
A project team at the GHI will coordinate an interdisciplinary group of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic who will contribute to a multi-volume print publication and an online platform. The electronic resource will include statistics and raw data on businesses and immigration, visual materials such as archival photos and video clips, interviews with contemporary entrepreneurs, business documents and personal correspondence. It will be a unique tool for teaching and research, and will make readily available – in a convenient, user-friendly and easily searchable format – invaluable materials that would otherwise effectively be lost. By synthesizing the diverse fields of business history, entrepreneurship research, migration history and German-American studies, the project will make a significant contribution to a wide array of academic disciplines and lay the groundwork for further research.
The GHI is seeking scholars who would like to contribute a 15-20 page essay to this project. If you are interested and/or have done research on businesspeople, companies, industries or regions where German-Americans were active, please contact us! Contributors will receive an honorarium of $400. For more information, such as the project proposal, a list of potential candidates, and guidelines for writing an essay, please see www.ghi-dc.org/entrepreneurship or email the project coordinator Jessica Csoma at firstname.lastname@example.org