Business History Reading List Bleg

4 11 2014

I’m appealing to all of my fellow Business Historians here. I need to prepare a (very short) reading list for a PhD student who is embarking on a project in the field of business history. [Please keep in mind that I am in the UK, where we don’t have comprehensive exams].  The student needs to get a sense of what business history is all about. What are the top 10 essential reads in the field? Any suggestions? . I’ve listed ten titles below– please tell me what you think of this list in the Comments section.

I believe that a good knowledge of Chandler is essential for any business historian, which is why there are four pieces by or about Chandler on the list.  However, I am conscious of the need to expose the student to current debates in business history.

I should explain that her PhD thesis will be on the history of energy price regulation in the UK. Her undergraduate degree was joint honours in Business and History. A few of her undergraduate courses dealt with British economic and social history, so I would imagine that she has some background knowledge I can draw on. I want to expose her to current debates in the field.

I’m co-supervising this PhD student with a political economist. I should explain that the student will be given a similar short reading list of key works in the field of political economy.

Debating Chandler

Chandler Jr, A. D. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977

Chandler, Alfred Dupont, Takashi Hikino, and Alfred D. Chandler. Scale and scope: The dynamics of industrial capitalism. Harvard University Press, 2009.

John, Richard R. “Elaborations, Revisions, Dissents: Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.’s, The Visible Hand after Twenty Years.” Business History Review 71, no. 02 (1997): 151-200.

Bucheli, Marcelo, Joseph T. Mahoney, and Paul M. Vaaler. “Chandler’s Living History: The Visible Hand of Vertical Integration in Nineteenth Century America Viewed Under a Twenty‐First Century Transaction Costs Economics Lens.”Journal of Management Studies 47, no. 5 (2010): 859-883.

Two Key Overviews of UK Business History

Wilson, J. F. (1995). British business history, 1720-1994. Manchester University Press.

Hannah, Leslie. The rise of the corporate economy. Routledge, 2013.

Contemporary Debates

Bucheli, Marcelo, and R. Daniel Wadhwani, eds. Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J., & Decker, S. 2014. Research Strategies for Organizational History: A Dialogue between Historical Theory and Organization Theory. Academy of Management Review, 39(3)

Winter, Sidney G. “An Evolutionary Program for Business History?.” Enterprise and Society 14, no. 3 (2013): 498-506.

Kobrak, Christopher, and Andrea Schneider. “Varieties of business history: Subject and methods for the twenty-first century.” Business History 53, no. 3 (2011): 401-424.


Update: Someone contacted me via email to suggest some additional sources. I’ve pasted them below:

Decker, S. 2013. The silence of the archives: business history, post-colonialism and archival ethnography. Management & Organizational History, 8(2): 155-173.

Kipping, M., & Üsdiken, B. 2014. History in Organization and Management Theory: More Than Meets the Eye. The Academy of Management Annals, 8(1): 535-588.

de Jong, A., Higgins, D., & van Driel, H. 2015. New Business History? An Invitation to Discuss. Business History  (forthcoming).

Decker, S., Kipping, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. 2015. New Business Histories! Plurality in business history research methods. Business History (forthcoming).

Obviously this might not all be relevant to your student, but if he/she does a historical subject at a B-School, I think these are becoming part of the canon



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