The Box (2nd ed.)

How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger - Second Edition with a new chapter by the author

by Marc Levinson

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780691170817
  • 9781400880751

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.

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.

Published in hardcover on the fiftieth anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. Now with a new chapter, The Box tells the dramatic story of how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur turned containerization from an impractical idea into a phenomenon that transformed economic geography, slashed transportation costs, and made the boom in global trade possible.


  • Princeton University Press; April 2016
  • ISBN: 9781400880751
  • Edition: 2
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Box
  • Author: Marc Levinson
  • Imprint: Princeton University Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780691170817
  • 9781400880751

In The Press

"In the second half of the twentieth century, an innovation came along that would transform the way the world did business. . . . I'm not talking about software. I'm talking about the shipping industry, and in particular an innovation you might not have thought much about: the shipping container. It is the subject of an excellent book I read this summer called The Box. . . . The story of this transition is fascinating and reason enough to read the book. But in subtle ways The Box also challenges commonly held views about business and the role of innovation."—Bill Gates, Gatesnotes


About The Author

Marc Levinson is an economist in Washington, DC. He was formerly a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, an economist at a leading investment bank, and finance and economics editor at The Economist.

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780691170817
  • 9781400880751