The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

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Princeton University Press, May 20, 2010 - Business & Economics - 400 pages
123 Reviews

In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. The Box tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about.

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.

But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology. It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.

Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.


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Wonderful book, well researched. - Goodreads
You'd better like factoids. - Goodreads
I found this to be very interesting and educational. - Goodreads
Really well researched, if a bit dry - Goodreads
Needs pictures to clarify actual useage - Goodreads

Review: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

User Review  - Arjun Narayan - Goodreads

Decent, not much I didn't already know, too concerned with telling a cute story. Stopped reading around the 25% mark. Pros: seems like a decent, entertaining history Cons: Too much focus on making up ... Read full review

Review: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

User Review  - Mark - Goodreads

The Box is perhaps best visualized in cinematic terms. Before The Box, your scenes on the docks had burly longshoremen loading boxes and using forklifts, bars and brawls, Irish or Italian union bosses ... Read full review

All 12 reviews »


Gridlock on the Docks
The Trucker
The System
The Battle for New Yorks Port
Union Disunion
Setting the Standard
Boom and Bust
The Bigness Complex
The Shippers Revenge
Just in Time

Ports in a Storm

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About the author (2010)

Marc Levinson is an economist in New York and author of three previous books. He was formerly finance and economics editor of the "Economist", a writer at "Newsweek", and editorial director of the "Journal of Commerce".

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