In the Kingdom of Shoes: Bata, Zlín, Globalization, 1894–1945
Published: October 2021© 2021
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 288 Pages
Illustrations: 18 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
288 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.70 in, 18 b&w illustrations
One of the world’s largest sellers of footwear, the Bata Company of Zlín, Moravia has a remarkable history that touches on crucial aspects of what made the world modern. In the twilight of the Habsburg Empire, the company Americanized its production model while also trying to Americanize its workforce. It promised a technocratic form of governance in the chaos of postwar Czechoslovakia, and during the Roaring Twenties, it became synonymous with rationalization across Europe and thus a flashpoint for a continent-wide debate. While other companies contracted in response to the Great Depression, Bata did the opposite, becoming the first shoe company to unlock the potential of globalization.
As Bata expanded worldwide, it became an example of corporate national indifference, where company personnel were trained to be able to slip into and out of national identifications with ease. Such indifference, however, was seriously challenged by the geopolitical crisis of the 1930s, and by the cusp of the Second World War, Bata management had turned nationalist, even fascist.
In the Kingdom of Shoes unravels the way the Bata project swept away tradition and enmeshed the lives of thousands of people around the world in the industrial production of shoes. Using a rich array of archival materials from two continents, the book answers how Bata’s rise to the world’s largest producer of shoes challenged the nation-state, democracy, and Americanization.
1. “A New Fixed Existence”: The Modernization of Zlín
2. “Time is Money”: The Americanization of the Dřevnice Valley, 1914–1923
3. “An End to Politics”: The Political Takeover of the Dřevnice Valley, 1923–1926
4. “Speak Briefly”: Rationalization and Everyday Life, 1926–1932
5. “Half the World is Barefoot”: The Globalization of the Bata System, 1931–1937
6. “The Path of Perfection”: Engineering the Batovci for an Uncertain World, 1933–1938
7. “Everyone Gives Their Soul to Their Country,” 1937–March, 1939
8. “Not a Nazi, but More or Less a Fool,” 1939–1941
"In the Kingdom of Shoes is a pathbreaking history of the Bata Shoe Company. It is simultaneously a brilliant history of globalization, the multinational corporation, and the company town, and how they all emerged and developed in the politically and economically turbulent context of Central Europe. This book is fascinating and essential reading for anyone interested in the history of capitalism, globalization, and nationalism in European and global history."Tara Zahra, Homer J. Livingston Professor of East European History and the College, University of Chicago
"The epic rise of the Bata Shoe Company from small-town factory to global conglomerate is one of the great corporate stories of the twentieth century. Doleshal's well-crafted and deeply researched book offers the first comprehensive and objective history of the culture of Batism with its civilization-making aspirations and high levels of social control. In the Kingdom of Shoes adds significantly to our understanding of the successes and failures of modern capitalism."Kimberly E. Zarecor, Professor of Architecture, Iowa State University