‘Deep’ integration of 19th century grain markets: coordination and standardisation in a global value chain
This paper explores the dynamics underlying integration of the international grain markets of the nineteenth century. It demonstrates that ‘deep’ integration implied changes to market structures, firm strategies and the commodity being marketed. Coordination within grain markets occurred at multiple levels (markets, firms, committees, etc.) and involved various firm strategies (integration, co-specialisation, voluntary consensus, etc.). There was a greater degree of standardisation as centralised grading systems were developed by commodity exchanges in the US and UK. Greater standardization made the commodity fungible and tradable through an institutional rather than a technical process. The global value chain that emerged during this period developed governance structures and institutions to coordinate the enormous expansion in scope as well as scale of trade. Many of these structures and institutions continue to coordinate the international markets in the twenty-first century. The paper uses the global commodity value chain (GCC) approach to develop these arguments and focuses on the international wheat trade of the nineteenth century - centred on UK as the major importer. This research stresses that governance and institutions that enable global disintegration (of the value chain) crucially drives and informs our understanding of market integration – they are two sides of the same historical coin.
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