Miller Center

Shane Hamilton

Social Studies of Science and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Trucking Country: Food Politics and the Transformation of Rural Life in Postwar America

Hamilton photo

Shane Hamilton is Lecturer in International Business and Strategy at the York Management School

The History News Network selected him in 2008 as a "Top Young Historian."

Hamilton's dissertation traced the efforts of state and federal agricultural experts, cooperating with food processors and supermarkets, to create the postwar marketing machine. Emerging from an effort to contain the political controversies surrounding New Dealism in agriculture, this marketing machine sought to eliminate economic uncertainties (such as seasonal and regional variations in production, or potential strikes from unionized workers) from the food distribution chain. According to postwar USDA economists, policymakers, and engineers, the rationalization of food marketing could effectively keep commodity prices high for farmers, without production controls, while consumer food prices remained steady. Industrial farms, high-tech food processors, and suburban supermarkets, by practicing economies of scale and by using the latest technologies – from pesticides on farms to forklifts in cold-storage warehouses – thus emerged as part of a political effort to solve the decades-old "farm problem" by reducing the cost of moving food from farms to consumers. Ultimately, Hamilton hypothesized trucks were political technologies, used to define the contours of public policy regarding foods and farmers.

Fellowship year: 2005

Mentor: Edmund Russell, University of Kansas

Selected Recent Publications

The Kitchen Debate and Cold War Consumer Politics: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford-St. Martin's Press, 2014).

"Agribusiness, the Family Farm, and the Politics of Technological Determinism in the Post-World War II United States.Technology & Culture (July 2014).

"Supermarkets, Free Markets, and the Problem of Buyer Power in the Postwar United States." in What's Good for Business: Business and Politics since World War II, ed. Julian Zelizer and Kim Phillips-Fein (Oxford University Press, 2012).

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