Business History Review

BHR cover  
  • Summer 2014

The Onassis Global Shipping Business, 1920s–1950s

by Gelina Harlaftis

Aristotle Onassis was a leading figure in creating the new global tanker business in the second half of the twentieth century. This article examines the first thirty years of his career, before he became renowned worldwide. Setting his business in the context of developments in global shipping, this article examines the entrepreneurship of Onassis during the economic crisis of the 1930s, World War II, the late 1940s, and the first years of the Cold War in the early 1950s, which marked his conflict with the American government. Onassis is the most famous of the shipping tycoons that transformed maritime business in the post–World War II transitional period. He is among those “new men”—Greek, Norwegian, Danish, American, Japanese, or Hong Kong shipowners—who replaced the old order of the traditional British Empire shipowners. These new shipowners established the global shipping business in the era of American dominance.

Table of Contents


Baker Library Historical Collections

Featured Event  
  • Featured Exhibit

A Chronicle of the China Trade

The Heard papers, one of the largest collections of business records relating to the nineteenth-century China trade, present a look into momentous events of Sino-Western relations and the day-to-day activities of American traders in the treaty ports.

View Exhibit