The Box

  • by Marc Levinson
  • Narrated by Adam Lofbomm
  • 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried 58 shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible.
The Box tells the dramatic story of the container's creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about.
Published on the 50th anniversary of the first container voyage, this is the first comprehensive history of the shipping container. It recounts how the drive and imagination of an iconoclastic entrepreneur, Malcom McLean, turned containerization from an impractical idea into a massive industry that slashed the cost of transporting goods around the world and made the boom in global trade possible.
But the container didn't just happen. Its adoption required huge sums of money, both from private investors and from ports that aspired to be on the leading edge of a new technology. It required years of high-stakes bargaining with two of the titans of organized labor, Harry Bridges and Teddy Gleason, as well as delicate negotiations on standards that made it possible for almost any container to travel on any truck or train or ship. Ultimately, it took McLean's success in supplying U.S. forces in Vietnam to persuade the world of the container's potential.
Drawing on previously neglected sources, economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography, devastating traditional ports such as New York and London and fueling the growth of previously obscure ones, such as Oakland. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


I bought this audiobook with high hopes after I saw that it got pretty good reviews and because I am always interested in a good business/economics story. I was disappointed. The story is straightforward and fairly dry. This felt stretched as a book and would have been a better long magazine article. In addition, the narrator is pretty flat. This one was a bit of a slog to get through.
Read full review

- Ben "Say something about yourself!"


Any additional comments?

Marc Levinson finally wrote the book that was long-overdue to be written. Professors often tell students that the shipping container revolutionized business platform around the world, but until now, they weren't been able to explain exactly *how* this came about. Before shipping standardization, international trade was not much to speak of by comparison since loading and unloading merchant ships with non-standardized items such as baskets, barrels, cages, bags, etc. would take several days and many bodies. The vision and implementation was driven by entrepreneurs like Malcom McLean, among others. The idea was to be able to take a container off of a truck or rail car, effortlessly place it onto a ship, quickly remove it from the ship and place it onto another truck or rail car (intermodal freight transport). Along the way, McLean and his competitors fought against protectionism from the railroads, trade unions and various governments, but ultimately, the demand for standardization became strongest during the Vietnam War as the US government desperately sought a more efficient means to transport goods.

The Box is both exciting and very well-written. Anyone remotely interested in international trade, business, logistics or related fields should consider The Box a must-read!

Read full review

- -E

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-30-2014
  • Publisher: Marc Levinson