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Local Business Voice: The History of Chambers of Commerce in Britain, Ireland, and Revolutionary America, 1760-2011


  • Bennett, Robert J.

    (Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge)


Local Business Voice provides the first scholarly and systematic history of the Chambers of Commerce from early historical origins in the eighteenth century up to the present date. Based on new archival information, it provides exhaustive coverage of all UK and Irish chambers, as well as detailed examination of early Chambers in the U.S., including New York, Charleston, and Boston, and early Chambers in Quebec and Jamaica. The book traces the importance of early tax protests and anger as motivating forces through interrelation with the American Revolution. It traces the emergence of service bundles, such commercial arbitration, coffee and reading rooms, and information and consultancy services as critical to the Chambers' unique market position. Some of the services had a unique status as trust goods, exploiting the chambers' USP as high status mutual non-profit organisations. It demonstrates the challenges for the Chambers as independent voluntary bodies in increasing partnerships with governments and competition with rival institutions, and also gives critical overview of key lobbies, such as over the Jay Treaty, tax expansion, the Corn Laws, tariff reform and free trade, municipal socialism, and modern regulatory burdens. There is also extensive analysis of chamber membership and motivation, tracking changes in structure by firm size, sector and corporate and management structures. The growth of small firm membership, and the value of business networks and (in the early chambers) religious adherence, are shown as key mediums for recruitment, and maintaining commitment. A definitive account of all local chambers including data appendices and detailed assessment of their significance, the book will be an enduring resource and foundation for research into the Chambers of Commerce's origins, historical development, and modern position.

Suggested Citation

  • Bennett, Robert J., 2011. "Local Business Voice: The History of Chambers of Commerce in Britain, Ireland, and Revolutionary America, 1760-2011," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199584734.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199584734

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    Cited by:

    1. Bennett Robert J., 2016. "Management adaptation of business association services: long-term stability 1783-2012 and ‘change points’ for Irish chambers of commerce," The Irish Journal of Management, Sciendo, vol. 35(1), pages 58-73, April.
    2. Andrew Dilley, 2013. "The politics of Imperial commerce: The Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, 1886-1914," Working Papers 13008, Economic History Society.
    3. Edward J. Balleisen, 2017. "American Better Business Bureaus, the Truth-in-Advertising Movement, and the Complexities of Legitimizing Business Self-Regulation over the Long Term," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 5(1), pages 42-53.

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