Dr Eric Golson

Deputy Head of School, Undergraduate Programme Director, Associate Professor of Economics
PhD, London School of Economics; MA, University of Chicago; BA, University of Chicago


Areas of specialism

Warfare Economics; Economic History; International Trade

University roles and responsibilities

  • Deputy Head of Economics
  • Economics Undergraduate Programme Director
  • Senior Tutor for Economics
  • Chair, Economics Undergraduate Board of Examiners
  • Chair, Economics Board of Studies
  • Chair, Economics Staff-Student Liaison Committee


    Research interests



    Eric Golson (2012) Did Swedish Ball Bearings keep the Second World War going’? Re-evaluating Neutral Sweden’s role” Scandinavian Economic History Review, 60:02 (June 2012), p.165-182.

    This paper examines the Swedish ball bearings industry during the Second World War, including subsidiary operations in Germany and the United Kingdom. It determines that these ball bearings were very important to the war effort in both countries, comprising in total about 58% of German supplies and 31% of British. Despite favouring Germany with more exports, the Swedish government allowed the British access to Swedish territory to ensure the delivery of the bearings through the German blockade. In relation to price increases for other exports, prices for ball bearings were time-dependent on the position of the acquiring country. From an overall perspective, the United Kingdom received a discount which Germany did not share. However, with the exception of direct exports, representing respectively about 10% and 15% of total German and British supplies, it would have been difficult for the Swedish industry to successfully withhold all supplies of ball bearings to either belligerent. Ultimately, any shortage of Swedish ball bearings in either belligerent could have been overcome only by long-term industrial changes and import substitution programmes.

    Eric Golson (2013) “Spanish Civilian Labour for Germany? Re-evaluating Neutral Spain’s Role” Revista de Historia Económica: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, 31:01 (March 2013), p.145-170

    For political reasons, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco limited the number of civilian Spanish workers sent to Germany during the Second World War. Despite agreeing to send 100,000, the number of workers never exceeded 9,550. Their impact on the German war economy was small. This paper demonstrates that, in limiting worker transfers, Franco went against his own economic incentives, considering that the Spanish government was taking a commission from the workers’ remittances. By limiting the number of workers sent, Franco satisfied the Allies’ pressure to minimise cooperation with Germany. In support of this argument, this article offers updated estimates for the number of workers, their skill levels and remittances. It also provides the first estimates of Spanish costs and income from the programme.

    Eric Golson (2014) “Swiss High Skilled Labour for Germany during the Second World War” Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte, 64:1 (March 2014), p. 16-44.

    During the Second World War, the importation of labour became crucial to sustaining the economies of Germany and Great Britain. Histories of southern German firms during the Second World War suggest that Switzerland provided many highly-skilled labourers for Germany’s war effort, but no study has to date quantified these contributions. This paper asserts the labour exchanges within a free movement and trade area in the border region of Switzerland and Germany were a failure. Instead of a desired workforce of 35,000, a maximum of 1,800 Swiss workers is ascertained to have worked in the German part of this area, representing 7.5% of the total labour force, 12% of the highly-skilled labour force and over 20% of the metal workers in the ten-kilometre German zone. Swiss contributions are somewhat offset by Germans working in the Swiss zone. Ultimately this paper suggests that, despite initially being supportive of increased labour transfers at the start of the war, the Swiss government sought to limit such transfers from 1941. More generally, the economics of this work became increasingly unfavourable, leading to fewer temporary workers in Germany.

    Eric Golson (2014) “Swiss Trade with the Allied and Axis Powers during the Second World War” Jahrbuch Für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 2014:2 (November 2014), p.71-97.

    This paper shows that in order to maintain its position the Swiss government offered Germany concessions on merchandise trade when necessary, but Switzerland was far from being under German control during the Second World War. Germany provided Switzerland with excess imports to exports while paying higher prices for Swiss goods. Although the levels of trade were considerably smaller due to geographic restrictions, Switzerland gave the Allies favourable terms of merchandise trade, in particular after 1943, in exchange for the continued recognition of Swiss independence. This is consistent with, but not necessarily explicit in the current literature. As a result of these findings, this paper concludes, from a merchandise trade perspective, Swiss neutrality was a policy of pragmatic self-preservation.

    Eric Golson (2016) “Sweden as an Occupied Country? Swedish-Belligerent Trade in the Second World War” in Jonas Scherner and Eugene N. White (eds.), Hitler’s War and Nazi Economic Hegemony in Occupied Europe (Cambridge University Press, March 2016). ISBN-13: 9781107049703
    Jari Eloranta, Eric Golson, Andrei Markevich, and Niko Wolf (eds.) (2016) Economic History of Warfare and State Formation" (Springer, June 2016). ISBN 9789811016059
    Eric Golson (2016) “Neutrals at War” Economic History of Warfare and State Formation (Springer, June 2016). ISBN 9789811016059
    Eric Golson and Jason Lennard (2016) “Swedish Business in the First World War: A Case Study of Ball Bearings Manufacturer SKF” in Andrew Smith, Kevin Tennant and Simon Mollan (eds.), The Impact of the First World War on International Business (Routledge, 2016). Co-authored with Jason Lennard (Lund). ISBN-13: 9781138930032
    Eric Golson, Jari Eloranta, et al (2018) Small and Medium Powers in Global History: Trade, Conflicts, and Neutrality from the 18th to the 20th Centuries

    This volume brings together a leading group of scholars to offer a new perspective on the history of conflicts and trade, focusing on the role of small and medium, or "weak", and often neutral states. Existing historiography has often downplayed the importance of such states in world trade, during armed conflicts, and as important agents in the expanding trade and global connections of the last 250 years. The country studies demonstrate that these states played a much bigger role in world and bilateral trade than has previously been assumed, and that this role was augmented by the emergence of truly global conflicts and total war.

    In addition to careful country or comparative studies, this book provides new data on trade and shipping during wars and examines the impact of this trade on the individual states’ economies. It spans the period from the late 18th century to the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War of the 20th century, a crucial period of change in the concept and practice of neutrality and trade, as well as periods of transition in the nature and technology of warfare.

    This book will be of great interest to scholars of economic history, comparative history, international relations, and political science.

    Eric Golson (2018) Small States in Harm's Way: Neutrality in War
    Eric Golson and Jason Lennard (2018) What was the impact of World War I on Swedish Economic and Business Performance? A case study of the ball bearings manufacturer SKF
    Jason Lennard and Eric Golson (2018) The macroeconomic effects of neutrality: evidence from Nordic countries during the wars
    Eric Golson (2020) “The Allied Neutral: Portugal, Salazar’s Empire and the Balance of Payments with the UK, 1939-1945” Revista de Historia Económica: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History.

    In September 1939, Portugal made a realist strategic choice to preserve the Portuguese Empire maintaining by its neutrality and also remaining an ally of Great Britain. While the Portuguese could rely largely on their colonies for raw materials to sustain the mainland, the country had long depended on British transportation for these goods and the Portuguese military. With the British priority now given to war transportation, Portugal's economy and Empire were particularly vulnerable. The Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar sought to mitigate this damage by maintaining particularly friendly financial relations with the British government, including increased exports of Portuguese merchandise and services and permission to accumulate credits in Sterling to cover deficits in the balance of payments. This paper gives an improved set of comprehensive statistics for the Anglo-Portuguese and German–Portuguese relationships, reported in Pounds and according to international standards. The reported statistics include the trade in merchandise, services, capital flows, loans and third-party transfers of funds in favour of the British account. When compared with the German statistics, the Anglo-Portuguese figures show the Portuguese government favoured the British in financial relations, an active choice by Salazar to maintain the Portuguese Empire.

    Eric Golson, Chien-Chaing Lee, Jim H Shen, et al (2022) The Impact of Sino‐US Trade Friction on the Performance of China’s Textile and Apparel Industry

    This study applies the event-analysis method and takes three Chinese listed textile and apparel companies that are representative of the upstream, midstream, and downstream of the textile value chain as research objects. By tracking the Baidu index trend of the keyword “trade war” to identify the ‘time window’ for each iconic event, we apply the autoregressive distributed lag approach to examine the impact of important landmark events on the performance of these companies during the period of Sino–US trade friction in 2018. We find that the impact diminished over time. Additionally, compared with upstream companies, midstream and downstream companies were hurt more. However, the risks were generally controllable.