Engineering & Transportation
The Box and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
 
 
Sell Us Your Item
For a $2.00 Gift Card
Trade in
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading The Box on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger [Hardcover]

Marc Levinson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)


Available from these sellers.


Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $9.48  
Hardcover --  
Paperback $12.48  
Audible Audio Edition, Unabridged $21.95 or Free with Audible 30-day free trial
China
Engineering & Transportation Books
Discover books for all types of engineers, auto enthusiasts, and much more. Learn more

Book Description

April 9, 2006

In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. The Box tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about.

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.

But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology. It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.

Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A book about the history of the shipping container? At first, one has to wonder why. (An eventuality not lost on the author, who muses "What is it about the container that is so important? Surely not the thing itself...the standard container has all the romance of a tin can.") The catch, though, is that Levinson, an economist, "treats containerization not as shipping news, but as a development that has sweeping consequences for workers and consumers all around the globe." That latter statement drives this book, which is about the economic ramifications of the shipping container-from the closing of traditional (and antiquated) ports to the rise of Asia as the world's preeminent provider of inexpensive consumer goods (distributed, naturally, using mammoth shipping containers). Levinson maintains his focus on the economics of shipping vast quantities of merchandise, organizing the book into snappy, thematic chapters on different facets of shipping ("The Trucker," and "Union Disunion," for instance), an approach that lends itself well to spot-reading. Throughout, the writing is clean-more informal than rigidly academic (union boss Teddy Gleason is "a voluble Irishman born hard by the New York docks")-making the book suitable for casual readers as well as students looking for a different take on the evolution of 20th-century world economics.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Shortlisted for the 2006 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year

Winner of the 2007 Bronze Medal in Finance/Investment/Economics, Independent Publisher Book Awards

Honorable Mention for the 2006 John Lyman Book Award, Science and Technology category, North American Society for Ocean History

Winner of the 2007 Anderson Medal, Society for Nautical Research

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1st Ed. edition (April 9, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691123241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691123240
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marc Levinson is an economist and historian specializing in business and finance. He was formerly finance and economics editor of The Economist, worked as an economist at a New York bank, and served as senior fellow for international business at the Council on Foreign Relations. For more information, check out his website at www.marclevinson.net.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
254 of 262 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In "On the waterfront," perhaps the saddest point of the film is where Fr. Barry eulogizes K. O. Duggan, killed off by the mob. But Marc Levinson has located a larger villain, the real force that killed off so many longshoremen's careers: the standardized shipping container. While a highly trained crane operator working today's docks earns $120,000 a year, their numbers are few and few of them are former longshoremen or sons of longshoremen. And cargo handling costs have dropped over 90%. Yet this is only the start. The shipping container reduced spoilage, theft, insurance costs, delays, and the entire cost of going global.

Levinson's well-researched treatment of a seemingly pedestrian subject works effectively to show that the world is not flat. The original dust cover of Friedman's best-selling book shows a tall-masted ship going over the edge of the 'flat' earth, confirming flat earth society members' discarded beliefs but distorting and mischaracterizing globalization. Levinson's rich, detailed, data-filled work shows the stark difference between Levinson's work with The Economist and Friedman's with The New York Times. Levinson uses a thorough, comprehensive economic and technological analysis, while Friedman flies around the world with a consistent "gee whiz" attitude of surprise. Levinson traces multitudes of disparate events and finds common links where Friedman finds common links and illustrates them with cursory events. Levinson is an economist; Friedman is a journalist. Friedman mixes metaphors and hyperbole; Levinson mixes in a wide range of colorful characters and challenges. Levinson is an editor; Friedman needs one. People who want to understand the recent history, impetus and infrastructure of globalization need to read "The box.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The shipping container and W. W. Rostow's Stages theory February 11, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The first thing that struck me about the impact of the shipping container was the public policy impact on it. Before the shipping container, shipping, trucking, and railroading were heavily regulated by the ICC. Rates were set not only according to weight and distance, but also according to contents. Thus, the cost of shipping 1000 pounds of tires would be different than, say, 1000 pounds of grain, and not just because of density differences. This apparently goes back to the complaints made by shippers in the late 19th century, and made sense to regulators in that era. Also, prior to the container, shippers were allowed to charge less than truckers because ships took longer. So if a ship already had a stated rate for, say, wheat, between two ports, truckers were not allowed to charge less (or something like that - Levinson didn't attempt to explain the intricacies of ICC regulation). Further, shipping between American ports was restricted to American flagged ships, and international shipping was heavily regulated and subsidized - to qualify for the subsidy, you had to use American built ships, and the subsidy supposedly helped make up for the more expensive American crew. One final government involvement in the era just prior to the shipping container's introduction: many of the ships currently in use in 1956 were WWII surplus ships, built on the cheap and available for next to nothing. It was relatively easy to get into the business, as very little capital was required, and ships could ply from port to port picking up freight as they went.

Enter the shipping container, 1956.

But wait: the container requires different infrastructure. The story of the shipping container is also the story of ports where governments chose to support the companies investing in the container.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves a wider audience than it will get November 23, 2006
Format:Hardcover
It's hard now to imagine a world without marine shipping containers, but the first one was loaded onto a ship, the Ideal-X, just 50 years ago. Precisely, on April 26, 1956, in Newark, N.J.

It turned the world upside down. It probably had as much to do with the success of Waikiki as the jet airliner, introduced in 1960.

The story has a hero, Malcom McLean, and it plays out, for him and for many others, as tragedy.

In "The Box," Marc Levinson makes business history read like a novel. Well, almost.

Like many simple, everyday things, the shipping container is more complicated than it looks. Just how do you design a steel box that can hold 20 tons but also has to be picked up without being touched by human hands and moved from ship to truck in less than a minute?

McLean, a North Carolina boy who founded a trucking empire in the days of heavy regulation in order to save $3, took the plunger's approach. In the Pacific, Matson Navigation Co. was also interested in converting from expensive breakbulk cargo handling, but it took the systems approach.

McLean beat Matson by two years, but Matson is still around (as the principal subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin Inc.), while McLean's SeaLand survives today only as a subsidiary (a very large one) of a Danish business that didn't exist until 1973.

McLean did not imagine he was going to restructure the world economy, but his idea did that, which is why this book deserves a wider audience than business histories usually get.

The container killed off New York and London as important shipping ports. New York City now handles only a little more cargo each year than Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, which did not exist in 1990.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read!!
Published 6 days ago by Stihl here
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very well written book on a very narrow subject.
Published 8 days ago by Tiziano Salinas
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting book on a subject now well understood by ...
Really interesting book on a subject now well understood by the general public yet one that has affected just about every person on the earth since the 1960's.
Published 15 days ago by Dora Barrientos
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting but tedious
a well written book which sadly falters in the second half. I was hoping for the author to cover more of the subject in the post Vietnam era, however the author instead chooses to... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nik Reiman
5.0 out of 5 stars In this book Marc Levinson carries out a thorough and ...
In this book Marc Levinson carries out a thorough and rigorous research of one of the most important vectors of globalisation, the intermodal container, popularised by Malcom... Read more
Published 1 month ago by R. Hanania
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed reading this book despite not having a background in ...
I enjoyed reading this book despite not having a background in economics. Well researched and well written, yet not light reading, I found myself fascinated by the unfolding of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by ReadsALot
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very thorough narrative of how the container helped flatten the world.
Published 2 months ago by A. Lozos
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly interesting book
I was expecting a boring history of the creation of a rather mundane piece of low-technology equipment. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Antonio Soffici
3.0 out of 5 stars god book
It is a good book on the history of the container. It focuses a little to much on the USA.
Published 2 months ago by Martin U. Olesen
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and informative with a slight tendency to depart from...
I enjoyed reading this book, the author has done some impressive research and has really dug deeply into the history of shipping. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Akis
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only


Forums

Topic From this Discussion
Container storage Be the first to reply
Have something you'd like to share about this product?
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 


Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions


Look for Similar Items by Category