Interview with Michael R. Cohen

Michael R. Cohen Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era

Michael R. Cohen

author of "Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era"
John A. Girardi

John A. Girardi

Co-Host & Partner at Girardi | Keese

Michael R. Cohen, author of "Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era"

Michael R. Cohen's Website

Michael Cohen is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University, where he holds a Sizeler Professorship. He is the author of The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter’s Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement, as well as several articles and reviews.  He earned his Ph.D. from Brandeis University.

The Book: "Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era"

ISBN: 1479879703

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A vivid history of the American Jewish merchants who concentrated in the nation’s most important economic

In the nineteenth century, Jewish merchants created a thriving niche economy in the United States’ most important industry cotton positioning themselves at the forefront of expansion during the Reconstruction Era. Jewish success in the cotton industry was transformative for both Jewish communities and their development, and for the broader economic restructuring of the South. Cotton Capitalists analyzes this niche economy and reveals its origins. Michael R. Cohen argues that Jewish merchants’ status as a minority fueled their success by fostering ethnic networks of trust. Trust in the nineteenth century was the cornerstone of economic transactions, and this trust was largely fostered by ethnicity. Much as money flowed along ethnic lines between Anglo-American banks, Jewish merchants in the Gulf South used their own ethnic ties with other Jewish-owned firms in New York, as well as Jewish investors across the globe, to capitalize their businesses. They relied on these family connections to direct Northern credit and goods to the war-torn South, avoiding the constraints of the anti-Jewish prejudices which had previously denied them access to credit, allowing them to survive economic downturns.

These American Jewish merchants reveal that ethnicity matters in the development of global capitalism. Ethnic minorities are and have frequently been at the forefront of entrepreneurship, finding innovative ways to expand narrow sectors of the economy. While this was certainly the case for Jews, it has also been true for other immigrant groups more broadly. The story of Jews in the American cotton trade is far more than the story of American Jewish success and integration\u2014it is the story of the role of ethnicity in the development of global capitalism.

John A. Girardi, Co-Host & Partner at Girardi | Keese

John A. Girardi's Website

John Girardi, Partner at Girardi Keese, is one of America's Finest Trial Lawyers and our Co-Host, as always, brings out the most important key elements to the success of today's guests. He and his firm have been dedicated to working hard and getting the best possible recovery for its clients. Girardi Keese's mission is to provide aggressive representation of individuals and businesses who have been injured in sous way, whether by physical harm, property damage, damage to business, or damage to economic interests. Girardi & Keese has two offices in California: Downtown Los Angeles and San Bernardino.