Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History

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Overview

In this lively book, Alan L. Karras traces the history of smuggling around the world and explores all aspects of this pervasive and enduring crime. Through a compelling set of cases drawn from a rich array of historical and contemporary sources, Karras shows how smuggling of every conceivable good has flourished in every place, at every time. Significantly, Karras draws a clear distinction between smugglers and their more popular criminal cousins, pirates, who operated in the open with a type of violence that was nearly always shunned by smugglers. Explaining the divergence between the two groups, the book illustrates both crossovers and differences.

At the same time, states and empires tolerated smuggling since eliminating smuggling was a sure route to a disgruntled and disorderly citizenry, and governments required order to remain in power. As a result, smuggling allowed individuals to negotiate an unstated social contract that minimized the role of government in their lives. Thus, Karras provocatively argues that smuggling was, and is, tightly woven into an uneasy relationship among governments, taxation, citizenship, and corruption.

Bringing smugglers and smuggling to life, this book provides a fascinating exploration for all readers interested in crime and corruption throughout modern history.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
The author uses vivid examples from his extensive archival research. . . . While the book centers upon the heyday of political economy debates of the 18th century, Karras keeps modern readers amused with contemporary examples, establishing the relationship between civil society and commerce. Recommended.
Journal Of Interdisciplinary History
Karras clearly knows the sources on Atlantic history like the back of his hand; the British archives . . . are gloriously represented. . . . Karras’ case studies . . . are rich . . . , providing 'local color' as well as explaining some of the modalities of contrabanding and the importance of smuggling in larger political-economy frameworks. . . . Recommended to anyone who wishes to learn about smuggling and its many global contexts.
Pirates and Privateers
Karras selects specific cases that illustrate 'a larger pattern that is observable across both time and space' (viii) and reinforce his arguments. They demonstrate the amount of culling through primary resources he’s done to assemble this evidence. Also of noteworthy mention is how he shows the lack of correlation between implementing laws against smuggling and how these are interpreted. . . . The book provides an important examination of the global similarities of smuggling and the parallels between modern-day smugglers and those of the past.
World History Bulletin
A brief but ambitious and engaging book on the role of smuggling in the modern world. . . . Well versed in the literature, Karras clearly conveys the historical, economic, political, social, and ethical issues involved in a study of smuggling. . . . Without a doubt, his book lays the groundwork for such an important enterprise and it invites classroom discussion of issues of evidence, methodology, and interpretation.
Journal Of Social History
Comparative analysis is one of the sharpest tools in the global historian's tool belt, and Karras wields it well. . . . He has given much thought to the ways disparate peoples were comparable, and why. He even manages to find legitimate similarities between smugglers' opposition to legal enforcement mechanisms across space and time. Such comparative analysis helps us get at quintessential and continuous characteristics associated with smuggling. Those interested in social, political, legal, and economic histories will find this book stimulating. . . . Smuggling demonstrates the potential in global history in general, and transnational comparative studies in particular.
Journal of World History
A welcome addition to the literature on smuggling. . . . [Karras] develops important arguments about the nature and causes of smuggling.
Booklist
Karras convincingly, and wryly, argues that this wink and nod dynamic has been essential to the survival of the state, siphoning off the sort of public rage over unfair trade that stokes revolutions. Karras also addresses the far more heinous trafficking of people and illegal drugs and refutes the entire endeavor by reminding us that taxes pay for necessary government services.
Foreign Affairs
Karras discusses the intimate connection between smuggling and the corruption of local officials, which, while strictly illegal, sometimes eased the life of local residents.
CHOICE
The author uses vivid examples from his extensive archival research. . . . While the book centers upon the heyday of political economy debates of the 18th century, Karras keeps modern readers amused with contemporary examples, establishing the relationship between civil society and commerce. Recommended.
Journal of Social History
Comparative analysis is one of the sharpest tools in the global historian's tool belt, and Karras wields it well. . . . He has given much thought to the ways disparate peoples were comparable, and why. He even manages to find legitimate similarities between smugglers' opposition to legal enforcement mechanisms across space and time. Such comparative analysis helps us get at quintessential and continuous characteristics associated with smuggling. Those interested in social, political, legal, and economic histories will find this book stimulating. . . . Smuggling demonstrates the potential in global history in general, and transnational comparative studies in particular.
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks
This superb book approaches its topic from a new perspective, exploring the cultural meaning and political impact of smuggling in many parts of the world. Through richly textured archival sources and fascinating visual materials, Alan Karras makes clear that men and women from all social levels participated in and benefited from smuggling. His analysis transforms smuggling from a peripheral economic activity to a central means through which individuals and communities shaped the development of the modern state. Essential for readers seeking a more nuanced view of the real global economy.
Lauren Benton
In this original and fascinating book, Alan Karras argues convincingly that smugglers were not the bandits of popular imagination but deserve a prominent place in world historical narratives. Karras's fresh treatment of the subject combines analytical insights and rich historical case studies. The approach showcases Karras's expertise in migration, trade, and social networks of the Atlantic world.
World History Connected
This book is part of a broader Exploring World History series edited by John McNeill and the late Jerry Bentley that seeks to provide supplemental texts to internationalize the undergraduate classroom through either thematic world history syntheses or books that adopt a transnational approach to understanding a particular region of the world. Smuggling does a bit of both. Karras focuses specifically on smuggling in the Caribbean and China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but does so by placing these regional treatments of smuggling into a global perspective. He does so through five concise chapters and a conclusion.
The Historian
This study is empirically rich.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Karras clearly knows the sources on Atlantic history like the back of his hand; the British archives . . . are gloriously represented. . . . Karras’ case studies . . . are rich . . . , providing 'local color' as well as explaining some of the modalities of contrabanding and the importance of smuggling in larger political-economy frameworks. . . . Recommended to anyone who wishes to learn about smuggling and its many global contexts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742553156
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Series: Exploring World History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan L. Karras is associate director of the International and Area Studies Academic Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Smuggling in Regional and Global Perspective: "Truck, Barter, and Exchange"
Chapter 2: "It's Not Pirates!"
Chapter 3: The Political Economy of Smuggling
Chapter 4: Smuggling: Patterns and Practices
Chapter 5: Smuggling, "Custom," and Legal Violations
Conclusion

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