Bankers and Empire

How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean

Peter James Hudson

Bankers and Empire

Peter James Hudson

368 pages | 13 halftones, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226459110 Published April 2017
E-book $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226459257 Published April 2017

From the end of the nineteenth century until the onset of the Great Depression, Wall Street embarked on a stunning, unprecedented, and often bloody period of international expansion in the Caribbean. The precursors to institutions like Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, as well as a host of long-gone and lesser-known financial entities, sought to push out their European rivals so that they could control banking, trade, and finance in the region. In the process, they not only trampled local sovereignty, grappled with domestic banking regulation, and backed US imperialism—but they also set the model for bad behavior by banks, visible still today.

In Bankers and Empire, Peter James Hudson tells the provocative story of this period, taking a close look at both the institutions and individuals who defined this era of American capitalism in the West Indies. Whether in Wall Street minstrel shows or in dubious practices across the Caribbean, the behavior of the banks was deeply conditioned by bankers’ racial views and prejudices. Drawing deeply on a broad range of sources, Hudson reveals that the banks’ experimental practices and projects in the Caribbean often led to embarrassing failure, and, eventually, literal erasure from the archives. Bankers and Empire is a groundbreaking book, one which will force readers to think anew about the relationship between capitalism and race.

Introduction / Dark Finance
One / Colonialism’s Methods
Two / Rogue Bankers
Three / The Bankers’ Occupation
Four / Empire’s Regulation
Five / American Expansion
Six / Imperial Government
Seven / Odious Debt
Conclusion / Racial Capitalism’s Crisis
Review Quotes
N. D. B. Connolly, author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow
“In a moment when the financial sector still enjoys general immunity from the social ills its institutions cause, Bankers and Empire arrives to write American banking squarely into the history of American imperialism. Hudson’s brave and timely account makes clear that the United States didn’t just come to dominate the Americas by sheer chance of history. Rather, the United States drove out European powers and pressed its influence through the arm of its military, the might of its largest banks, and the cultural logics of Jim Crow. After this book, there can be no denying that capitalism had a culture, that markets are often made at the barrel of a gun, or that domination of the Caribbean remained central to the making of the contemporary American and modern Atlantic World. Tremendous.”
Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Bankers and Empire gives new meaning to the phrase that the Caribbean is ‘the playground of the elite.’ In what is arguably the most original contribution to new capitalist studies, Hudson weaves a poetic account of how well-heeled Wall Street bankers—with a little help from the military—turned the Caribbean into their private laboratory where they toyed with sovereign debt, invented new global financial instruments, pried open new markets, amassed spectacular wealth, and left ruin in their wake, all the while evading US regulatory regimes. Hudson demolishes whitewashed corporate narratives to reveal a grisly dialectic of racial capitalism and resistance, of workers and peasants for whom money was no abstraction, and of Wall Street edifices built from surf, sand, and blood.”
Mary A. Renda | author of Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915–1940
Bankers and Empire reveals the dirty work of institutional experimentation that enabled banks to evade regulatory restrictions, override popular opposition, and ensconce themselves in the United States’ Caribbean empire, with devastating effects. A deeply researched and important study of racial capitalism.”
Walter Johnson, author of River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom
“Hudson’s Bankers and Empire is a landmark book. In the tradition of W.E.B. Du Bois and Cedric Robinson, Hudson has written a book that illuminates the connection between racial capitalism and US imperialism: between the process by which notions of racial differences were both produced out of and ploughed back into the global surplus harvested by American banks, and the fact that those banks investments abroad were, in the final instance, guaranteed by the military power of the United States. The book’s bold argumentation is rooted in painstaking research in otiose archives. And Hudson writes like an angel on fire.”
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