Two Important New Articles on the Future of Business History

12 03 2015

AS: Business History has just published two (advance access) articles on the current state and future direction of business history.

Towards a new business history?

Abstract: This article calls for a discussion about business history research. We advocate that the current typical approach in business history – dominantly case study analysis – maintains its prominent position, but the purpose and relevance of this type of research in the scientific method for business history is made more explicit. Moreover, the article proposes the application of additional approaches in business history, which specifically aim to develop theory and test hypotheses. These approaches are well established in the social sciences, but require adaptation to the particular needs of business history. The purpose of this article is to argue that opportunities for scientific explanations in business history are enhanced by engagement with the circle of knowledge creation where theory is confronted with empirical evidence and empirical observations feed back into theory formation.

Abe de Jong is a Professor of Corporate Finance and Corporate Governance at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and a Professor of Financial Reporting at the University of Groningen.

David Higgins is a Professor of Finance and Accounting in the Accounting and Finance group at Newcastle University Business School.
Hugo van Driel is an Assistant Professor of Business History at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
We agree with de Jong et al.’s argument that business historians should make their methods more explicit and welcome a more general debate about the most appropriate methods for business historical research. But rather than advocating one ‘new business history’, we argue that contemporary debates about methodology in business history need greater appreciation for the diversity of approaches that have developed in the last decade. And while the hypothesis-testing framework prevalent in the mainstream social sciences favoured by de Jong et al. should have its place among these methodologies, we identify a number of additional streams of research that can legitimately claim to have contributed novel methodological insights by broadening the range of interpretative and qualitative approaches to business history. Thus, we reject privileging a single method, whatever it may be, and argue instead in favour of recognising the plurality of methods being developed and used by business historians – both within their own field and as a basis for interactions with others.
Author biographies
Stephanie Decker is Professor of Organization Studies and History at Aston Business School, UK. As a historian working at a business school, most of her work is concerned with the relation between organization theory and history. She is co-editor of Business History, the recipient of the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship 2014-15, and the principal organizer of a seminar series on organizational history funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council (UK). Her recent publications include “Research Strategies for Organizational History” (Academy of Management Review, 2014, co-authored with Michael Rowlinson and John Hassard).

Matthias Kipping is Professor of Policy and Chair in Business History at the Schulich School of Business, York University in Toronto, Canada. His research has focused on the development and role of the different institutions of management knowledge, namely management consulting and business education. In his publications, as well as in his teaching, he has been trying to link historical research with organizational theory. They include an article (jointly with Behlül Üsdiken) on “History In Organization and Management Theory: More Than Meets the Eye.” The Academy of Management Annals 8, no. 1 (2014).

R. Daniel Wadhwani is Fletcher Jones Professor of Entrepreneurship at University of the Pacific, USA and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Business History, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. He is co-editor of Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods and co-editor for recently announced special issues on “uses of history” in Organization Studies and on “historical approaches to entrepreneurship research” in Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. His research has been published in Academy of Management Journal, Business History, and Business History Review, among other journals.

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