Professors Harms and Listokin awarded MacMillan Center International Book Prizes

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Robert Harms, the Henry J. Heinz Professor of History & African Studies, and Yair Listokin, the Shibley Family Fund Professor of Law, have been awarded book prizes by the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.

Professor Harms received the Gustav Ranis International Book Prize for best book, Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa (Basic Books, 2019).

Professor Listokin received the Gaddis Smith International Book Prize for best first book, Law and Macroeconomics: Legal Remedies to Recessions (Harvard University Press, 2019).

Established in 2004 to recognize the distinguished legacy of two former directors of the MacMillan Center, the prizes are awarded for books on international topics written by current members of the Yale faculty. Award recipients receive a research appointment at the MacMillan Center and a $10,000 research award over two years.

Citations for the winning books follow:

Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa

In just three decades at the end of the nineteenth century, the heart of Africa was utterly transformed. Virtually closed to outsiders for centuries, by the early 1900s the rainforest of the Congo River basin was one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. In Land of Tears, historian Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which this happened. Beginning in the 1870s, traders, explorers, and empire builders from Arabia, Europe, and America moved rapidly into the region, where they pioneered a deadly trade in ivory and rubber for Western markets and in enslaved labor for the Indian Ocean rim. Imperial conquest followed close behind.

Ranging from remote African villages to European diplomatic meetings to Connecticut piano-key factories, Land of Tears reveals how equatorial Africa became fully, fatefully, and tragically enmeshed within our global world.

Law and Macroeconomics: Legal Remedies to Recessions

After the economic crisis of 2008, private-sector spending took nearly a decade to recover. Yair Listokin thinks we can respond more quickly to the next meltdown by reviving and refashioning a policy approach whose proven success is too rarely acknowledged. Harking back to New Deal regulatory agencies, Listokin proposes that we take seriously law’s ability to function as a macroeconomic tool, capable of stimulating demand when needed and relieving demand when it threatens to overheat economies.

Listokin makes his case by looking at both positive and cautionary examples, going back to the New Deal and including the Keystone Pipeline, the constitutionally fraught bond-buying program unveiled by the European Central Bank at the nadir of the Eurozone crisis, the ongoing Greek crisis, and the experience of U.S. price controls in the 1970s. History has taught us that law is an unwieldy instrument of macroeconomic policy, but Listokin argues that under certain conditions it offers a vital alternative to the monetary and fiscal policy tools that stretch the legitimacy of technocratic central banks near their breaking point while leaving the rest of us waiting and wallowing.

For more information about the MacMillan Center and its International Book Prizes, visit its website.

Robert Harms is the Henry J. Heinz Professor of History and African Studies at Yale University. He is the author of several books on African history, including The Diligent, winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize, the Frederick Douglass Prize, and the J. Russell Major Prize. 
 

Yair Listokin is the Shibley Family Fund Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He has been honored with a Milton Friedman Fellowship from the Becker-Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago and his research has been featured in several major media outlets.