- Series: Exploring World History
- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 15, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0742553159
- ISBN-13: 978-0742553156
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 9.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,937,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History (Exploring World History)
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Little documentation of smuggling, the shadow side of economics, exists, but Karras discovered enough to fuel this unusual study revealing the key role contraband has played in world affairs. Karras begins by distinguishing between the violence of piracy (including the crimes of today’s Somalian pirates) and the evasiveness of smuggling, which he defines as the “clandestine and illegal movement of goods across a legal boundary in order to avoid paying tax.” The roots of today’s contraband trade reach to eighteenth-century European imperialism, when global legal and commercial regimes were created and covertly defied. All sorts of goods, including sugar and tea, were smuggled by ordinary citizens evading taxes and tariffs, often with the collusion of corrupt officials. Karras convincingly, and wryly, argues that this wink-and-nod dynamic has been essential to the survival of the state, siphoning off the sort of public rage over unfair trade that stokes revolutions. Karras also addresses the far more heinous trafficking of people and illegal drugs and refutes the entire endeavor by reminding us that taxes pay for necessary government services. --Donna Seaman
The author uses vivid examples from his extensive archival research. . . . While the book centers upon the heyday of political economy debates of the 18th century, Karras keeps modern readers amused with contemporary examples, establishing the relationship between civil society and commerce. Recommended. (CHOICE)
Karras convincingly, and wryly, argues that this wink and nod dynamic has been essential to the survival of the state, siphoning off the sort of public rage over unfair trade that stokes revolutions. Karras also addresses the far more heinous trafficking of people and illegal drugs and refutes the entire endeavor by reminding us that taxes pay for necessary government services. (Booklist 2009-11-01)
Karras discusses the intimate connection between smuggling and the corruption of local officials, which, while strictly illegal, sometimes eased the life of local residents. (Foreign Affairs)
A welcome addition to the literature on smuggling. . . . [Karras] develops important arguments about the nature and causes of smuggling. (Journal of World History 2011-06-01)
Karras selects specific cases that illustrate 'a larger pattern that is observable across both time and space' (viii) and reinforce his arguments. They demonstrate the amount of culling through primary resources he’s done to assemble this evidence. Also of noteworthy mention is how he shows the lack of correlation between implementing laws against smuggling and how these are interpreted. . . . The book provides an important examination of the global similarities of smuggling and the parallels between modern-day smugglers and those of the past. (Pirates and Privateers)
Karras clearly knows the sources on Atlantic history like the back of his hand; the British archives . . . are gloriously represented. . . . Karras’ case studies . . . are rich . . . , providing 'local color' as well as explaining some of the modalities of contrabanding and the importance of smuggling in larger political-economy frameworks. . . . Recommended to anyone who wishes to learn about smuggling and its many global contexts. (Journal of Interdisciplinary History)
A brief but ambitious and engaging book on the role of smuggling in the modern world. . . . Well versed in the literature, Karras clearly conveys the historical, economic, political, social, and ethical issues involved in a study of smuggling. . . . Without a doubt, his book lays the groundwork for such an important enterprise and it invites classroom discussion of issues of evidence, methodology, and interpretation. (World History Bulletin)
Comparative analysis is one of the sharpest tools in the global historian's tool belt, and Karras wields it well. . . . He has given much thought to the ways disparate peoples were comparable, and why. He even manages to find legitimate similarities between smugglers' opposition to legal enforcement mechanisms across space and time. Such comparative analysis helps us get at quintessential and continuous characteristics associated with smuggling. Those interested in social, political, legal, and economic histories will find this book stimulating. . . . Smuggling demonstrates the potential in global history in general, and transnational comparative studies in particular. (Journal of Social History)
This book is part of a broader Exploring World History series edited by John McNeill and the late Jerry Bentley that seeks to provide supplemental texts to internationalize the undergraduate classroom through either thematic world history syntheses or books that adopt a transnational approach to understanding a particular region of the world. Smuggling does a bit of both. Karras focuses specifically on smuggling in the Caribbean and China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but does so by placing these regional treatments of smuggling into a global perspective. He does so through five concise chapters and a conclusion. (World History Connected)
This study is empirically rich. (The Historian)
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Smuggling, indeed, has played a major role in the construction of the states in the modern world. The same people who regulated smuggling often benefited from it. Those states that preached free trade, simultaneously restricted it. Those who broke the trading restrictions were rarely punished, which allowed their legal regimes to continue to exist, even thrive. In short, the smuggler's crimes were an essential part of state building, even though refusing to pay taxes directly undermined the state that most of the smugglers thought was essential to their protection.
The author offers up many stories and fragments of stories helping to identify some interesting patterns through a wide variety of time periods making compelling arguemenyts about changing relationships between states and empires and those who lived under their rule. By looking at patterns of the enforcement against smuggling over a sustained period of time, it is possible to discern the roles that cycles of peace and war played as states decided whether or not to act against their own subjects, as well as against those of other states, for participating in contraband commerce. It would appear that Adam Smith's described human propensity to truck, barter, andexchange one thing for another trumped the very clear need for government protection of life, liberty, and property.
Pirates, of course, are different than smugglers. Pirates are violent and bold, far more flamboyant in their actions. Smuggling is carried out clandestinely, always seeking to elude discovery and rarely uses violence. Their was no trade for pirates; there was only theft.
But pirates served a tremendous important purpose in the settlement of the Western Hemisphere. The pirates' basesfor raiding and plunder eventually lead to permanent settlements that would later become non-Spanish colonies, in places like Florida and Carolina. The pirates' actions also led to a partial redistribution of the New World'd wealth from Spain to more northenly European states, who competed in the mercantile system. The increased flow of bullion into European treasuries other than the Spanish one in turn allowed the European statesto recognize the piratesfor their financial contributions, even as they officially disownedtham and their activities. Pirates therefore laid the foundation for many non-Spanish states in the Americas.
I could go on and on, but sufice to say, there is alot on the table between theses pages that are well worth reading. An entertaining, informative, and thought provoking work.