Robert Sobel

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Robert Sobel in a promotional photo for his publisher.

Robert Sobel (February 19 1931June 2, 1999) was professor of history at Hofstra University and a well-known and prolific writer of business histories.

Sobel was born in the Bronx, in New York City, New York. He completed his B.S.S. (1951) and M.A. (1952) at City College of New York, and after serving in the U.S. Army, obtained a PhD from New York University in 1957. He started teaching at Hofstra in 1956. Sobel eventually became Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor of Business History at Hofstra. Since his death, the university established the Robert Sobel Endowed Scholarship for Excellence in Business History and Finance.

Sobel's first business history, published in 1965, was The Big Board: A History of the New York Stock Market. It was the first history of the stock market written in over a generation. The book was met with favorable reviews, and solid sales, and Sobel's writing career was launched. Several of his subsequent books were best sellers.

Besides writing more that 30 books, Sobel authored many articles, book reviews, and scripts for television documentaries and mini-series. From 1972 to 1988, Sobel's weekly investment column, "Knowing the Street," was nationally syndicated through New York Newsday. He was also regularly published in national periodicals, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. At the time of his death, Sobel was also a contributing editor to Barron's Magazine.

However, Sobel was perhaps most famous for his only work of fiction, the 1973 book, For Want of a Nail. This book is an alternate history in which Burgoyne won the Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War. This unique work was just like a real history book, but detailing the history of an alternate timeline, complete with footnotes. Sobel had authored, or co-authored, several actual text books. For Want of a Nail was republished in 1988 and won several science fiction awards.


[edit] Selected quotes

The British created a civil-service job in 1803 calling for a man to stand on the Cliffs of Dover with a spyglass. He was supposed to ring a bell if he saw Napoleon coming. The job was abolished in 1945.

From a February 22, 1999 Barron's Magazine article by Robert Sobel:

Remember the old story about the two traders who kept selling a case of sardines to each other raising the price each time? A sure-fire profit on every trade. Then one decided to sample the contents and found them inedible. 'What did you expect' said his colleague. They were for trading, not eating.
Take Radio Corporation of America the star of the market in 1928..... When it had nothing but promise, RCA was a $573 stock. Three decades after the promise was realized, it was going for less than half it 1929 high. Think about that trying to assess the prospects for some of today's high flyers [Internet stocks].

[edit] Selected Bibliography

[edit] Fiction

[edit] Non-fiction

  • The Origins of Interventionism: The United States and the Russo-Finnish War (1961)
  • The Big Board: A History of the New York Stock Market (1965)
  • The French Revolution (1967)
  • The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920's (1968)
  • Panic on Wall Street: A History of America's Financial Disasters (1968)
  • The Automobile Makers (1969)
  • The Curbstone Brokers: The Origins of the American Stock Exchange (1970) reprinted (2000)
  • Conquest And Conscience: The 1840's (1971)
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Executive Branch (1971).
  • The Age of Giant Corporations: a Microeconomic History of American Business, 1914-1970 (1972) reprinted with updates for 1914-1984 (1984)
  • Machines and Morality: The 1850s (1973)
  • The Money Manias: The Eras of Great Speculation in America, 1770-1970 (1973) reprinted (2000)
  • The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition (1974)
  • Herbert Hoover and the Onset of the Great Depression 1929-1930 (1975)
  • NYSE: a history of the New York Stock Exchange: 1935-1975 (1975)
  • The Manipulators: America in the Media Age (1976)
  • Inside Wall Street: Continuity & Change in the Financial District (1977)
  • The Fallen Colossus (1977), concerning the failure of Penn Central Transportation
  • They Satisfy: the Cigarette in American Life (1978)
  • Last Bull Market (1980)
  • The Worldly Economists(1980).
  • IBM: Colossus in Transition (1981)
  • Thomas Watson, Sr.: IBM and the Computer Revolution, (1981), biography of Thomas J. Watson
  • ITT: The Management of Opportunity (1982)
  • Car Wars: The Untold Story (1984)
  • The Age of Giant Corporations: a Microeconomic History of American Business, 1914-1984 (1984)
  • Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1978 - 1983." Edited by Robert Sobel and John Raimo. Meckler Books, (1984)
  • The Entrepreneurs: An American Adventure (1986)
  • IBM vs. Japan: The Struggle for the Future (1986)
  • RCA (1986)
  • Salomon Brothers 1910-1985 (1986)
  • The New Game on Wall Street (1987)
  • Quality of Earnings: the Investor's Guide to How Much Money a Company Is Really Making with Thornton L. O'Glove (1987)
  • Biographical Directory of the Council of Economic Advisers (1988)
  • Trammell Crow, Master Builder: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate Empire (1989), biography of Trammell Crow
  • The Life and Times of Dillon Read (1991)
  • Dangerous Dreamers: The Financial Innovators from Charles Merrill to Michael Milken (1993)
  • The Age of Giant Corporations: A Microeconomic History of the United States (1993)
  • Crashes, Booms, Panics and Government Regulation (Secrets of the Great Investors) with Roger Lowenstein,Louis Rukeyser (1997)
  • Coolidge: An American Enigma (1998), biography of Calvin Coolidge
  • The Pursuit of Wealth: The Incredible Story of Money Throughout the Ages of Wealth (1999)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Conglomerate Kings (1999)
  • When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them (1999)
  • AMEX: A History of the American Stock Exchange (2000)
  • The Great Boom 1950-2000: How a Generation of Americans Created the World's Most Prosperous Society (2002)
  • Biographical Directory of the United States, 1774-1989, with David B. Sicilia, Editors. (Updated 2003)

[edit] Fan Sites

  • For All Nails "Sobel-heads" flesh out or extend the history from the book For Want of a Nail.
  • Alternative History "Sobel, must be numbered with Tolkien among the handful of creators of a complete imaginary world."

[edit] Archived Television Interview of Sobel

  • "Booknotes" Transcript and archived copy of Brian Lamb's detailed television interview of Robert Sobel concerning his best selling book, Coolidge: An American Enigma.

[edit] External links

Robert Sobel

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