For a bit of a change befitting the holiday season, here's some economic history about the city I am currently living in. Pictured is a scene from the annual Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham. Markets go back a long way here in Birmingham. Since 1166, commerce has taken place in what has come to be known as the Bullring in the city center. Aside from being a "shopping center" for eight and a half centuries, Birmingham also played a key role in the industrial revolution. Brummie James Watt made crucial design enhancements to the steam engine. Soon, the output from Watt's brainchild became instrumental in powering factories, vessels, and trains. (The unit of measurement for electrical power is named in his honor.) The canal system that still wends its way through parts of the town is living testament to an age when steam-powered transport facilitated commerce. Long before China became the "workshop to the world," the city of Birmingham held that title. While no longer a manufacturing powerhouse, Birmingham retains a distinction of being the UK's second largest city.
In terms of culture, Birmingham has been at the forefront as well. From Black Sabbath to Duran Duran, the music scene here has not been wanting. Literature? Another favorite son of Birmingham is JRR Tolkien of video game and action figure fame [what can I say? It's commerce: Been there done that, saw the movie, bought the t-shirt.] Many of the places described in the Lord of the Rings cycle draw from old haunts of Tolkien in the city.
I originally came up with the IPE Zone so that I could place additional reading material for my students online, but it has since attracted a wider audience far beyond the boundaries of Birmingham. It is my modest contribution to keeping Birmingham in the consciousness of those interested in IPE as Birmingham's place in economic history is undoubtedly an important one. That history is still unfolding before our eyes. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!