In This Review

Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History
Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History
By Alan L. Karras
Rowman & Littlefield, 2009, 224 pp

In this unusual book, Karras has combed the archives for evidence of smuggling from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. Many of the examples he finds took place in British and French colonies in the Caribbean and in Asia, where locals resented metropolitan efforts to restrict trade or raise revenue. But they also include the failure of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's wife to declare to U.S. Customs the results of a $19,000 shopping spree in Paris, for which she had to pay a fine of over $4,000. Karras discusses the intimate connection over the centuries between smuggling and the corruption of local officials, which, while strictly illegal, sometimes eased the life of local residents. In the end, Karras takes a tough position against smuggling, arguing that it corrodes legitimate government. But he pays too little attention to the content of the legal regimes that have made smuggling especially attractive, such as the eighteenth-century requirement that residents of European colonies trade only with the metropolitan power and not with those neighbors ruled by different colonial powers.