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Award-winning history professor authors third book, ‘Country Capitalism’

The Lantern
Ohio State Department of History professor Bartow Elmore released his third book “Country Capitalism” on Tuesday. Credit: The Ohio State University

Ohio State Department of History professor Bartow Elmore has no problem tackling the environmental impact of major corporations.

Elmore’s third book, “Country Capitalism” became available Tuesday and was named a recipient of the 2022 Dan David Prize — the largest history prize in the world . Elmore said the book explores the histories of five Southern companies — Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, Walmart, FedEx and Bank of America — that have had an undeniable impact on the current model of the global economy.

Elmore started at Ohio State in 2016 and received the Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in his second year as a professor. The chair of the Ohio State History Department, Scott Levi, said Elmore’s excellence with students in the classroom translates to his writing.

“He’s exceptionally talented, loves his students, loves engaging with his students in the classroom, and has a real passion for the work that he does,” Levi said. “He illustrates how the Amazon economy is a product of a particular capitalist model that emerged from the American South.”

Elmore said his upbringing in Atlanta inspired him to write the book after always seeing the Delta and Coca-Cola headquarters when he was young. “Country Capitalism” seeks to update the economic history of the South — which was rife with social inequality — by discussing how these large corporations impacted the national and global economy along with the environment.

While researching the novel, Elmore spoke to officials and used records from the five major companies. He spoke to the CEO of Bank of America, the founder of FedEx and the head sustainability officer of Coca-Cola.

“One of the best parts of writing a book is that you get to meet people from all over the country and talk to them about the most pressing issues of our time,” Elmore said.

Elmore said his position as a professor at Ohio State influences his work as an environmental historian. Elmore teaches history classes that require students to research businesses in Columbus and explain the massive impact corporations, especially Coca-Cola, had and continue to have on the environment.

“A class is a live laboratory where [students are] contributing to new knowledge by being part of the discussion,” Elmore said.

Elmore’s first two books, “Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism” and “Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future,” are more centered on individual businesses he teaches about in his courses.

This story was updated at 5:11 p.m. Thursday for a more accurate description of the author.

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