Global Conflict and Elite Integration in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Rothschild coat of arms

Rothschild coat of arms

National and international elites have in significant ways shaped each era of world-systemic transformation (Lachmann 2000, 2003; van der Pijl 1998). During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a period marked by the formation and ongoing development of British hegemony—rapid financial, political, and technological changes allowed for unprecedented growth in international trade, investment, and global integration (Bairoch 1996; Haggard 1995; O’Rourke and Williamson 1999). Technological innovations in water transport (steam power and canals), communications (telegraph, overseas cables), and rapidly expanding railroad systems altered long-standing meanings of time and geography. In addition, emergent and efficient organizational forms, such as cartels and centralized banks, re-concentrated the fresh glut of wealth and influence among ruling elites—despite lower-echelon incursions by the rising middle-classes and entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the era was clearly marked by an increasing trend in not only the magnitude, but also the density of world commerce.