On the evening of Thursday, March 8th, the History Department opened its O’Connell Initiative Annual Conference titled “The United States and Global Capitalism in the Twentieth Century” with Dr. Vanessa Ogle as it’s keynote speaker. Dr. Ogle is a professor of History at University of California-Berkeley with a focus on late-modern Europe. Faculty, graduate and undergraduate students alike filled the McNally Amplitheatre to hear Dr. Ogle’s talk, titled “Twilight Capitalists: The Global Cold War and the Unmaking of Post-War Colonialism”. After introductions by Dr. David Hamlin and the director of the O’Connell Initiative, Dr. Asif Siddiqi, Dr. Ogle described her exciting research for her upcoming book, Archipelago Capitalism: A History of the Offshore World, 1920s-1980s. Dr. Ogle introduced the audience to a history of a global economic system tied to the rise of neoliberalism and free-market capitalism that transformed the United States, as well as the rest of the western world.
Dr. Ogle spoke about the movement of high level professionals from the military and political establishments to private businesses, especially banking, and the promotion of the free enterprise system. Former CIA and MI6 agents built financial institutions that, with the aid of incentives to avoid repatriation, transformed the American economy, and contributed to the development of tax havens and offshore financial markets. With their past professional connections, men such as Edward Stettinus and Walter H. Diamond were able to provide a financial space for covert operations by national security agencies. These same financial spaces, often in Latin America and the Caribbean also became the destination for the illicit drug and arms trade, as well as destinations for former Nazi officials, who received help from Swiss banks in moving their assets to safety. Dr. Ogle’s presentation elicited many questions and comments about a shady world of capitalism and covert operations.