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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Dr. Martin Bemmann

Dr. Martin Bemmann

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
History of Economic Knowledge and Economic Statistics
Junior Fellow
October 2016 - July 2017


Martin has studied Modern History, Economic History and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Freiburg, receiving his Magister degree in 2006. From 2007 on he worked on his PhD thesis concerned with German debates on forest damages between the 1890s and 1970s. After receiving his PhD in 2010 from the University of Freiburg he moved to Britain (University of East Anglia, Norwich) where he conducted research on the international timber trade during the 1930s and 1940s, financed by the DAAD. Afterwards he worked as an independent researcher on several projects, including one on the establishment of international forestry and timber statistics in the 1930s. In 2012/13 he was a lecturer at the History Department of the University of Dresden. From 2013 on he has been employed as lecturer at the History Department of the University of Freiburg. Apart from his work on the history of economic knowledge and statistics he is also interested in the history of the relationship of economy and ecology in a broad sense. Since 2010 he has organised conferences and study groups on related aspects.

Selected Publications

  • Beschädigte Vegetation und sterbender Wald. Zur Entstehung eines Umweltproblems in Deutschland, 1893-1970, Göttingen 2012.
  • Im Zentrum des Markts. Zur Rolle Großbritanniens im internationalen Holzhandel der 1930er Jahre, in: Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 99 (2012), 142-170.
  • Ökologische Modernisierung. Zur Geschichte und Gegenwart eines Konzepts in Umweltpolitik und Sozialwissenschaften, edited together with R. v. Detten and B. Metzger, Frankfurt/Main – New York 2014.
  • Cartels, Grossraumwirtschaft and Statistical Knowledge. International Organizations and Their Efforts to Govern Europe’s Forest Resources in the 1930s and 1940s, will be published in 2016 in L. van der Grift / A. Ribi Forclaz (eds.): Governing the Rural in Interwar Europe (under contract with Routledge).
  • Von der internationalen zur Weltwirtschaftsstatistik. Beobachtungen, Überlegungen und Thesen zur Genese internationaler Wirtschaftsstatistik in den 1920er und 1930er Jahren, will be published in 2016 in S. Haas / M. C. Schneider / N. Bilo (eds.): Die Vermessung der Welt. Kulturgeschichte der Statistik (under contract with Steiner).

FRIAS Research Project

When the World Economy Began to Matter: International Economic Statistics, Economic Debates in Britain and Germany and Globalisation Processes between the World Wars

The 1920s and 1930s are widely known as an era of ‘deglobalisation‘ and ‘de-Europeanisation‘ of world trade. Such interpretations are mainly based on statistics on international economic structures and processes. Taking these statistics not as unbiased sources of data but as artefacts which have a history and whose emergence was based on certain ideas, on deliberate decisions of specific actors and on the willingness to use a ‘quantitative language’, my research project contributes to the growing skepticism about this characterisation of the interwar years.

In my project, I argue that during the 1920s and 1930s a new kind of international economic statistics emerged which I propose to call ‘world economic statistics’. It differed significantly from international economic statistics which had been established in the 19th century and resembled much more our current approaches to describe and to understand the global economy. The emergence of ‘world economic statistics’ as well as their utilisation by experts, politicians and a wider public provide evidence of intensified globalisation processes, understood as the shaping of border-crossing and inter-continental material and social networks, a growing awareness of international interdependencies and an increasing consciousness of global inequalities.

During my stay at FRIAS I will conduct empirical research for the second of the project’s two parts, focusing on who – during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s in Britain and Germany – actually did use international economic statistics in what way and with what results.