Citizen coke : an environmental and political history of the Coca-Cola Company

Elmore, Bartow, Jerome, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Hale, Grace, Department of History, University of Virginia
Ayers, Ed, Department of History, University of Virginia
Russell, Edward, Department of History, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

Blending business, environmental, cultural, and political history, this manuscript on the commercial ascendancy of the Coca-Cola Company addresses a simple question: how did a patent medicine invented in an Atlanta pharmacy in 1886 acquire the natural resources it needed to become available in retail outlets all over the globe? Though often not treated by scholars as such, mass-marketing enterprises like Coca-Cola are ultimately extractive industries requiring prodigious amounts of natural resources to achieve the retail ubiquity that made them famous. Thus, reducing the cost of ingredients - including packaging - is a primary concern of these enterprises, one that structures corporate organization in ways historians have not fully explored. Restoring the connection between Coca-Cola and the ecosystems it inhabited, this study places natural resource acquisition at the heart of a narrative about the construction of a political economy that nurtured the growth of low-value consumer goods businesses in the twentieth century.

This study argues that vertical integration was not the hallmark of big business growth in the twentieth century. It contends that insulation from the risky and often unprofitable business of mining natural resources from provider communities around the world allowed many companies to gain the global market popularity that they did in the twentieth century. This is what made certain profitable companies more resilient than others as they transitioned from the Progressive Era to the globalized economy of the late-twentieth century. With cheap natural resources and limited front-end investments in production systems, Coca-Cola was able to place its products on retail shelves all across the globe, making it one of the most widely available and profitable consumer items in human history.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Coca-Cola Company, environmental history

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:35:57.

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