International Congress of French Business History, Paris 2019

11 02 2019

International Congress of French Business History

Paris 2019




Paris, 11th – 13th septembre 2019

Université Dauphine, Sorbonne Université , ESCP Europe

Deadline for proposals for papers and sessions: 18h February 2019



Continuity and rupture

Clichés persist, which is why we are sometimes still faced with the question: Are French businesses adapted to the economic, ecological, technological or social challenges of global capitalism? Are they modern? It is true that a powerful state, imposing publicly owned companies, the specific methods of regulating the consumer market, a world of work concerned with its achievements, as well as what could be described as a special relationship with innovation, risk, funding or new technologies have left a lasting mark on France. This has yet to be analysed. Does that explain why France, its businesses, its organisations – in short, French capitalism – often seem to be ignored in recent research and publications on the history of businesses and global capitalism? In other words, in order to take stock of the history of businesses in France is it not logical to assess France’s place in the history of capitalism? Answering these questions is the objective that has been set for the Paris Congress of French Business History.

In a spirit of intellectual and disciplinary openness, the Congress aims to bring together as many researchers from different branches of social and human sciences as possible, provided that their work adopts a historical perspective or addresses issues related to the historical dynamics of businesses. Besides stimulating discussion with French as well as foreign teachers and researchers, the objective of this Congress is also to foster dialogue between the academic world and players in economic and public life who are interested in the history of the role and operation of businesses and organisations, as well as the history of those living and working in the business world. Finally, the Congress should logically also be an opportunity to reflect on how business history is written today in France, on France, but also within the French-speaking world. This will make it possible to establish where French and French-speaking historiography stands in relation to other approaches, particularly Anglo-Saxon approaches. Three main sets of questions will be addressed.

1- The role of businesses – both French and foreign – in the emergence of a form of French-style capitalism

  • Governance, types of ownership (family, joint-stock), legal status, methods of control
  • Weight and demography of different kinds of French businesses (groups, associations, SMEs, very small enterprises)
  • Existence of a French organisational and management model (strategic choices, organisational forms, management styles, specific values, training and recruitment of managerial elites, role of engineers, influence of consultants, role of professional associations, management techniques – accounting, financial or marketing practices, staff management)
  • Weight of national public institutions (state, economic policies, publicly owned enterprises, role of legislation and social laws, legal and regulatory framework, etc.)
  • French businesses and technology (production methods, ‘robotisation’ (automation), digitalisation, product technology, innovation and research)
  • The question of entrepreneurship
  • Methods of funding economic activity (banks, capital markets, monetary and financial regulation, etc.)
  • Specificities of the functioning of the labour market and social relations
  • Structure and dynamics of investment policies and policies providing support for research and innovation
  • Means of regulating the market and competition (prices, standards, norms, lobbies, cartels, business and competition law, etc.)
  • Weight of associative and cooperative organisations in economic dynamics
  • Borrowing and influence of foreign models (Great Britain, Germany, the United States, Japan, China, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, etc.)

2- French companies confronted with the challenges of globalisation and modernity

  • New or old challenges (sustainable development and pollution, ethics, information and communication technologies, new forms of work and organisation, the issue of minorities and diversity, corporate social responsibility [CSR], etc.)
  • The historical dynamics of certain French activities on world markets (pharmaceutical industry, automotive industry, aeronautics, rail transport, agri-food, tourism and the hotel business, retailers and trade, leisure industry, research, arms industry, IT, nuclear, etc.)
  • Weight and role of foreign businesses in France
  • Businesses in France’s geopolitical relations with other world economies or other cultural areas (Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America)
  • French companies in the face of crises and revolutions in history (economic, ecological or political, regional or global, military conflicts, political or geostrategic tensions, protectionism, migration, commercial traffic, political or religious movements, etc.)
  • Businesses confronted with economic or social doctrines and policies (liberalism, Keynesianism, Marxism, market regulation and deregulation, new forms of wage labour and of work, business theories, etc.)

Finally, the Congress should address important epistemological or methodological questions: the question of access to sources, of new ways in which firms themselves preserve and promote the use of records, but also the issue of publishing the work of historians in French.

3- Writing business history in France today

  • The actors in business history in France today (archivists, researchers in the human and social sciences [historians, managers, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, etc.], communication and history businesses, legal experts, journalists, magazines, newspapers, learned societies and academic associations, think tanks, etc.)
  • Business history practices (preservation of memory, promotion and communication tools, employee training, levers of change, strategy development, etc.)
  • The impact of new technologies (archiving, preservation, accessibility, communication, user and property rights)
  • Risks and challenges for business historians (accessibility of archives, control, property rights, destruction of archives, new sources, etc.)
  • Business history and interdisciplinarity
  • Historical research on companies participating in debates and societal issues (national or international visibility, usefulness, managerial or operational impact, etc.)



The organisation of the Congress brings together a wide array of public and private institutions. The Congress will be held at the Paris-Dauphine University, the Sorbonne University, and at the ESCP Europe business school in the framework of its 200th anniversary. In addition, a doctoral seminar will be organised at the Paris-Dauphine University as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. It will be open to around 12 doctoral students.

The steering committee within the Organisational Committee is made up of:

Eric Godelier (President of the Committee, École Polytechnique), Dominique Barjot (Sorbonne Université), Laurent Béduneau-Wang (École Polytechnique), Alain Beltran (CNRS), Jean-Philippe Bouilloud (ESCP Europe), Sébastien Damart (Université de Paris-Dauphine), Laurent Ducol (Saint-Gobain), Sabine Effosse (Université Paris Nanterrre), Gilles Garel (CNAM), Pascal Griset (Sorbonne Université), Ivan Kharaba (Académie François Bourdon),  Muriel Le Roux (IHMC-CNRS-ENS-Paris 1), Alain Michel (Université d’Evry), Roger Nougaret (BNP Paribas), Adrien Passant (EMLV).

1- Proposals

Although we mainly encourage proposals on the topics listed above, papers on any other subject relating to business history, in particular those with a comparative approach, will also be examined by the programme committee. In this regard, contributions in the field of history but equally in the areas of management, sociology, law, political sciences and, where appropriate, other subject areas will also be accepted. The Congress does not intend to limit itself to research focusing exclusively on the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries. Individual or collective proposals on French or foreign businesses operating in France are admissible. This also applies to contributions looking at French or foreign companies operating abroad in relation to France (for example, in French-speaking countries or former French colonies). Both individual papers and proposals for full Congress sessions are admissible.

Individual paper proposals must include a summary of the proposal of no more than half a page (300 words) in French or English, and a half page curriculum vitae (CV, title, position, address and e-mail address).

Session proposals (in French or English) must include a covering letter indicating the theme of the session, the name of the person responsible for the session, a summary of no more than half a page (300 words) and a half page CV for each of the session participants (CV, title, position, address, e-mail address). In addition, proposals should suggest a chairperson and a commentator (to provide the closing comments) for the session as well as a maximum of three paper proposals. Each session will last a maximum of 90 minutes (10 minutes for comments and a maximum of 20 minutes for each presentation).

All proposals must be submitted on the website

In addition, doctoral students (from second year) will be able to present their research in the form of a poster on the ESCP premises as of Thursday 12th September. Poster proposals must include a summary of the proposal of no more than half a page (300 words) in French or English, and a half page curriculum vitae (CV, title, position, address and e-mail address). Please specify in the proposal that it is a poster presentation.

Applicants will be informed by e-mail of whether their proposal has been accepted or rejected on 8th April 2019.

Full articles and/or presentations must be posted on the Congress website by 26th July at the latest (maximum 30,000 characters and/or PowerPoint presentation) and must IN ALL CASES be accompanied by a summary in French AND English.

Paper or session proposals must be submitted online at The Congress sessions will be held at the ESCP Europe business school from Thursday 12th to Friday 13th September 2019.

2- Doctoral day

A doctoral day will be organised on Wednesday 11th September on the Paris-Dauphine University premises. It will be open to 12 students. The candidates must be enrolled in the second year of a doctoral degree in business history in France. However, candidates from other fields are also admissible provided that they adopt a historical approach in their work.

The application should include a CV of no more than one page, a letter of motivation, a summary of the thesis project of no more than three pages as well as a letter of support from the candidate’s thesis supervisor. If necessary, it is possible to request financial support for Congress expenses. The application deadline is 18th February 2019.

3- Accommodation

Accommodation options will be made available on the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris campus for students (30 rooms) and researchers (10 studios). A number of partner hotels offer accommodation at varying prices (see list on the website).

4- Prizes

The organising committee plans to award three prizes:

  1. Best Congress paper prize. This award is open to all Congress participants. When submitting their paper proposal, candidates must inform the organisers that they wish to be considered for the prize. The amount of the prize is 1,000 euros.
  2. Best PhD prize. The prize is open to researchers who have completed a doctorate in the history of businesses and organisations in 2016, 2017 or 2018. It is not limited to doctoral graduates in history. The award includes 1,000 euros in prize money and support with publication (3,000 euros). Candidates can submit a proposal through the proposal submission form writing “Best PhD prize” as title and inclosing a one page resume of the thesis, the Jury report and the thesis itself in pdf.
  3. Prize for the best business history book in French. This prize may be awarded to Francophone researchers or, as the case may be, to researchers who have published a book in French within the last three years. The jury will select books published in the last three years (2017, 2018, 2019). The prize amount is 1,000 euros.



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