Review: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

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Review: The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

I saw this book on the shelf at one of our favorite independent bookstores in Santa Monica, Hennessey + Ingalls, and I thought the subject looked very interesting; I was right, this is a fantastic book.

This book is a history of container shipping; the author also tries to prove that the change from breakbulk (individual items hauled onto a ship) to container (big containers loaded at a factory, unloaded at the destination) shipping had a profound effect on the world economy. As a history, there’s a lot of interesting research on the high costs of breakbulk shipping, the regulatory climate that slowed the adoption of container shipping in parts of the western world, and the various major companies involved in the rise of container shipping. One of the main characters in this shifting story is Malcom Purcell McLean, trucker turned shipper; McLean was perhaps the first person to recognize the full potential of container shipping from door-to-door.

At times the book dives into too much detail and a couple of times Mr. Levinson emphasizes his point past making it, but all in all I thought this was a wonderful book about a subject rarely discussed but incredibly important to the growth of our “flat world.”

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