Curriculum Vitae

Independent Scholar, Washington, DC
geschwind.c [at]

Current Project

"Johan Fritzner Greve of Sund, Norway, and His Family" (web) (PDF)


2000    Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Accounting, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
1996    Ph.D. in History of Science, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
1990    Sc.M. in Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI
1987    A.B. in German Language and Literature, Duke University, Durham, NC


2013-           Retired, with leisure for independent scholarship
2000-2013    Tax accountant at various Virginia accounting firms
1998-1999    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of History, George Washington University, Washington, DC
1997            Adjunct Lecturer, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park, MD


2017    Carl-Henry Geschwind, A Comparative History of Motor Fuels Taxation, 1909-2009: Why Gasoline Is Cheap and Petrol Is Dear  (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books).

Slowing down global warming is one of the most critical problems facing the world's policymakers today. One favored solution is to regulate carbon consumption by taxing it. Yet the most common carbon tax today, the gasoline tax, varies widely in its level, with rates nearly ten times as high in Europe as in the United States. When did gasoline taxes become so much higher there, and why? And what does this tell us about the prospects for taxing carbon here? This book addresses these questions using a comparative historical approach, tracing the twentieth-century history of the gasoline tax in four countries: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand (which, despite being the world's second-most motorized country for much of the century, still has gasoline tax rates around three times those in the United States). In doing so, it highlights the role that fiscal crises (including gaping budget deficits and trade imbalances) rather than considerations of energy or environmental policy played in setting gasoline tax levels in all four countries. For more of an overview, see this video of a lecture, beginning at around 4:30.

2001    Carl-Henry Geschwind, California Earthquakes: Science, Risk, and the Politics of Hazard Mitigation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press). Winner, 2002 Book Prize of the Forum for History of Science in America.

Working Paper

2017    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "The Federal Sales Tax That Was: American Miscellaneous Excise Taxes, 1940-1971," Journal of Policy History, 29:490-516.

Why is there no value-added tax (VAT) in the US, which might support a more expansive welfare state? Historians have pointed to our obsession with a progressive income tax in the early twentieth century. Yet this cannot be the answer, for Great Britain also emphasized a progressive income tax before World War II but still imposed a VAT in 1973. In Great Britain, the VAT emerged from a narrow system of multi-rate excises on selected luxuries and consumer durables first introduced in 1940. The American federal government elaborated a similar system during the 1940s, considering it to be a progressive consumption tax. Yet in the 1950s, while British officials worked to make their excise tax system more robust, American policymakers lost interest in such taxes. As a result, the American taxes were gutted in the Excise Tax Reduction Act of 1965 and finally eliminated in 1971.

2014    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "Gasoline Taxes and the Great Depression: A Comparative History," Journal of Policy History, 26: 595-624. Open-Access Preprint Version

During the Great Depression, gasoline tax rates in Germany, Great Britain, and New Zealand first became much higher than those in the United States, a difference that has persisted ever since. Fiscal pressures for higher taxes, as well as industry pressures for tariff protection against cheap imported gasoline, existed in all four countries. But they had much less of an impact in the U.S. for two main reasons: (1) revenue increases needed for fiscal reasons were proportionately much lower here, as the fiscal deficit was much smaller; moreover, the portion of new revenue to be derived from gasoline tax increases could be spread over far more gallons, as America was already much more motorized than the other three countries; (2) the particular structure of the American domestic gasoline market meant that an import duty here did not result in higher gasoline prices and thus was not considered to be a gasoline tax, unlike in Europe.

1997    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “1920s Prediction Reveals Some Pitfalls of Earthquake Forecasting,” Eos,Transactions American Geophysical Union, 78: 401-412.

1995    C.-H. Geschwind and M. J. Rutherford, “Crystallization of Microlites During Magma Ascent: The Fluid Mechanics of 1980-1986 Eruptions at Mount St Helens,” Bulletin of Volcanology, 57: 356-370.

1994    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “The Beginnings of Microscopic Petrography in the United States, 1870-1885,” Earth Sciences History, 13: 35-46.

1992    Carl-Henry Geschwind and Malcolm J. Rutherford, “Cummingtonite and the Evolution of the Mount St. Helens (Washington) Magma System: An Experimental Study,” Geology, 20: 1011-1014.

1989    Sherman H. Bloomer, Robert J. Stern, Elisha Fisk, and C. H. Geschwind, “Shoshonitic Volcanism in the Northern Mariana Arc: 1. Mineralogic and Major and Trace Element Characteristics,” Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 94: 4469-4496.

Book Reviews
2017    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "Fueling the American Decline" (review of Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s by Meg Jacobs), The Common Reader, online May 2017

2016    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "Seismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake and When the Earth Roars: Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan by Gregory Smits," Earth Sciences History, 35: 399-400.

2007    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930 by Gregory Clancey,” Isis, 98: 190-191.

2000    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Promoting Risk: Constructing the Earthquake Threat by Robert A. Stallings,” Isis, 91: 831-832.

1997    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Thinking about the Earth: A History of Ideas in Geology by David R. Oldroyd,” Isis, 88: 695.

1995    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Science on the Run: Information Management and Industrial Geophysics at Schlumberger, 1920-1940 by Geoffrey C. Bowker,” Earth Sciences History, 14: 111-112.

1995    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science: Alexander Dallas Bache and the U. S. Coast Survey by Hugh Richard Slotten,” Earth Sciences History, 14: 109-110.

Selected Conference and Invited Presentations
2017    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "The New Zealand Petrol Tax in Comparative Perspective, 1909-2009," Australia and New Zealand Studies Association of North America Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, February 24.

2016    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "Motor Fuels Taxation 1909-2009: A Comparative Historical Analysis," Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 19.

2016    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "A Postwar Path to the VAT: Selective Excise Taxes in Great Britain and the United States, 1940-1973," Policy History Conference, Nashville, TN, June 3.

2016    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "National Sales Taxes in the United States and Great Britain, 1940-1973," National Archives Researcher Lecture, Washington, DC, February 18.

2015    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "A Postwar Path to the VAT: Selective Excise Taxes in Great Britain and the United States, 1940-1973," Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, November 15.

2014    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "On the Propensity to Tax Consumption: The Purchase Tax in Transatlantic Comparison," German Historical Institute Workshop on Taxation for Redistribution since 1945, Washington, DC, December 5.

2014    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "'Rationing Petrol by Price': Post-War Austerity and the Gasoline Tax," Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, ON, November 9.

2014    Carl-Henry Geschwind, "The Gasoline Tax and the Politics of Post-War Austerity," Policy History Conference, Columbus, OH, June 5.

2013    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Cheap Gasoline, Dear Petrol: Motor Fuel Taxation During the Great Depression,” Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 23.

2012    Carl-Henry Geschwind, “Farmers, Motorists, and Highway Finance: The Complex Origins of the American Gasoline Tax, 1914-1929,” Policy History Conference, Richmond, VA, June 8.

Last Updated:  4 May 2018