Edward Fertik

Primary field of interest: 


I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, where my research has been supervised by Naomi Lamoreaux and Adam Tooze. My research interests include 20th century U.S. history, economic and business history, intellectual history, and international political economy.
My dissertation, “Steel and Sovereignty: the United States, Nationalism, and the Transformation of World Order, 1890-1940,” is a study of how industrialization became a primary strategy for resisting imperialism in the first half of the twentieth century, and how this strategic gamble transformed the institutional order of global capitalism. Beginning with the observation that numerous non-industrial countries around the world attempted to inaugurate national steel industries in the interwar period, and that many of these projects were competed over, financed, and built by the same small group of steel firms, banks, engineers, and governments in Great Britain, Germany, and the U.S., I investigate how these various actors forged alliances with nationalist governments in the developing world to accelerate industrialization in the service of national defense and economic independence. Economic nationalism in the developing world in the interwar period was in part a response to the experience developing countries had as international borrowers before World War I, when the terms on which developing countries could borrow were prejudicial to national sovereignty. I argue that transforming the international financial system required an intensified politics of nationalism within developing countries, a shift in the relative power of different economic interests within the rich countries, and, most importantly, a breakdown in the mechanisms of inter-imperial cooperation between them. “Steel and Sovereignty” furthermore demonstrates that the experience of competing with Nazi Germany to supply steel mills to nationalist governments in countries like Brazil was a crucible in which the ideas and practices of America’s postwar programs of international economic development were forged.

This project is transnational, multi-archival, and interdisciplinary. The narrative moves across countries as varied as Romania, Iran, China, and Germany, dictated by the fact that the actors around whom the research was organized, especially bankers and engineers, were simultaneously involved in similar projects in all of these countries. It is based on research in public and private archives in Germany, Britain, Brazil, and the U.S. In my dissertation I integrate economic, business, and international history, as well as the history of technology and the history of ideas. I also draw heavily on the scholarship of economists, political scientists, and international relations theorists, with the goal of incorporating recent developments within these disciplines on the workings of sovereign debt and the processes of state formation into historical research on the history of capitalism.

I am a recipient of the 2013-2014 John E. Rovensky Fellowship in Business and Economic History from the Business History Conference and the 2016-2017 Graduate Dissertation Fellowship from the Economic History Association.
My wife Sochie and I currently live in Washington, DC.