JMS Special Issue Call: “Historical Perspectives on Deglobalization’s Antecedents, Outcomes, and Managerial Responses”

3 10 2022

Call for Papers

Historical Perspectives on Deglobalization’s Antecedents, Outcomes, and Managerial Responses

AS: I am reposting the Call for Papers for the JMS SI on Deglobalization that has now appeared on the website of the Society for the Advancement of Management studies– the charity that publishes JMS. This call for papers will likely interest many of the business historians who read this blog. JMS is, of course, a prestigious management journal that is on the FT50 list. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, the issue of deglobalization is a pressing one that is currently facing policymakers, managers, consumers (geopolitically-induced deglobalization seems to be contributing to inflation and shortages), and increasing, theorists in management schools. The term deglobalization appears frequently in the business press (for some examples from just the last few days, please here, here, and here). There is a lot of evidence we are in another deglobalization episode and there is therefore a very strong case to support the claim that historical research into previous examples of deglobalization has the potential to produce research findings that are both theoretically important and potentially interesting to a wide range of research stakeholders.

Submission Deadline: 1 July 2023

Guest Editors:

Marcelo Bucheli (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Daniel Raff (University of Pennsylvania and NBER)

Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool)

Heidi Tworek (University of British Columbia).

JMS Editor:

Johann Fortwengel (King’s Business School)


Since 2016, the use of the term deglobalization has increased markedly (Google Trends; Van Bergeijk, 2019). This relatively novel word is now employed by journalists (Financial Times, 2021; Economist, 2022), political risk consultants (Swarup, 2016), policymakers, economists (Irwin, 2020; Van Bergeijk, 2019), historians (James, 2018; Tooze, 2018) and management academics (Aguilera, Henisz, Oxley, and Shaver, 2019; Buckley, 2020; Munjal, Budhwar, and Pereira, 2018; Witt, 2019) as they attempt to make sense of such interrelated phenomena as rising protectionism, nativism, and the re-imposition of controls on flows of goods (Peng, Kathuria, Viana, and Lima, 2021), capital (Roubini, 2020), labour (Farndale, Thite, Budhwar, and Kwon, 2021) and ideas (De Chant, 2022). In effect, they use the term deglobalization to describe developments that make economic exchange across borders harder than was previously the case. For people who use the term in this fashion, deglobalization denotes the opposite of globalization, economic liberalization, and movement towards a borderless world economy. Users of the term deglobalization usually focus on decisions taken by policymakers as the causal drivers behind it, although other drivers, such as environmental and epidemiological, are also certainly possible. The rise of protectionism, nativism, and the intensification of geopolitical rivalries in the early 2020s has created new challenges that forced scholars studying firms and other organizations to bring politics and hostility to globalization back into the agenda (Witt, Li, Välikangas and Lewin, 2021; Doh, Darhan, Cassario, 2022).  In the aftermath of the Cold War, many Western liberals mistakenly saw globalization as inevitable and irreversible (Friedman, 2005). Few subscribe to that viewpoint today.

The advent of deglobalization means that scholars in business schools are in (seemingly) uncharted territory. However, the world economy has experienced cycles of globalization and deglobalization over the last few centuries, as the business historian Geoffrey Jones (2005) noted in a paper that now seems prophetic. History can serve as one guide for thinking about deglobalization’s antecedents and outcomes, because historical and history-informed research can advance management theory (Argyres, De Massis, Foss, Frattini, Jones, and Silverman, 2020; Buckley, 2021; Raff, 2020; Sasaki, Kotlar, Ravasi, and Vaara, 2020; Suddaby, Coraiola, Harvey, and Foster, 2020; Suddaby and Jaskiewicz, 2020; Wadhwani, Kirsch, Welter, Gartner, and Jones, 2020; Wadhwani, Suddaby, Mordhorst, and Popp, 2018). As Argyres et al. (2020) observe, the field of history-informed management research is very diverse, encompassing myriad theoretical perspectives and research methods, positivist, interpretivist, and phenomenological. Historical and history-informed research in management includes papers that examine historical phenomena in light of management theory. It also includes research about what managers and other actors in the present do with historical narratives as in the literature in management on ‘rhetorical history’ -how managers use historical narratives to persuade others- and ‘history-as-sensemaking’ -how managers draw on their historical knowledge to make sense of the present (Suddaby, Coraiola, Harvey, and Foster, 2020).  

This Special Issue seeks to include diverse historical approaches to deglobalization that can advance management theory and provide actionable guidance to practitioners. At the same time, the Special Issue will enable historical scholars to engage with management, producing theoretical cross-fertilisation. We anticipate that this Special Issue will include representatives of the different branches of historical and history-informed research and of different research traditions, including International Business, Strategic Management, and Historical Organization Studies. We seek papers about deglobalization’s history (from the distant past and right up through the present) and equally about how any of a wide variety of essentially historical approaches to and perspectives on this once again current and salient phenomenon can advance management theory and provide actionable guidance to decision-makers.


This Special Issue will showcase historical and history-informed research that contributes to contemporary debates about deglobalization’s antecedents, outcomes, and managerial responses. We therefore encourage submissions that engage with, but are not limited to, the following themes.

Theme 1. Antecedents of Deglobalization

Deglobalization has many antecedents that remain underexplored by researchers. We need to know about what causes deglobalization. We encourage contributors to be explicit about the macro-level theories they use to understand global political economy, whether hegemonic stability theory (Meyer and Li, 2022), Marxian theories of political economy (e.g. Van Lent, Islam, Chowdury, 2020), world-systems theory, or postcolonial theory (Boussebaa, Sinha, and Gabriel, 2014; Boussebaa and Brown, 2017; Said, 1978). Theories that causally link deglobalization and pandemics (Tworek, 2019) might also be usefully applied here. Historical and history-informed research can therefore help to address the following questions, among others:

  • How is the concept of waves of globalization and deglobalization developed by economic historians (Findlay and O’Rourke, 2007) useful in management research?
  • How do organizations of different types (firms, non-profit organizations etc.) contribute to and experience deglobalization?
  • How can comparisons of different episodes of deglobalizations, such as the present one with the deglobalization of the early 1930s, illuminate the underlying causes of  deglobalization, be they technological, ideational, or environmental?
  • What is the role of nonmarket strategy (e.g. Lawton, Dorobantu and Sun, 2020) and/or corporate political activity (Lawton, McGuire, and Rajwani, 2013; Sutton, Devine, Lamont, and Holmes 2021) in driving deglobalization?
  • What is the role of corporate political activity in generating the policies associated with deglobalization?
  • What is the relationship between business and peace (Ganson, He, and Henisz, 2021)?
  • How does deglobalization change the nature of institutional distance and actors’ perceptions of institutional distance?  
  • What causal connections, if any, exist between deglobalization and inequality?

Theme 2. Outcomes of Deglobalization

A second major theme of the special issue will be how deglobalization differentially impacts organizations with different characteristics, such as size, purpose (e.g., profit-seeking or non-profit), nationality, and organizational structure. Papers submitted to the special issue might also engage ongoing debates about de-internationalization (e.g. Kafouros, Cavusgil, Devinney, Ganotakis, and Fainshmidt, 2022), international entrepreneurship (Terjesen, Hessels, and Li, 2016), and political risk management (Forbes, Kurosawa, and Wubs, 2018; Hartwell and Devinney, 2021) through the use of historical case studies.  Historical and history-informed research might shed light on the following questions, among others:

  • Does deglobalization impose greater or lesser costs on large multinational enterprises (MNEs) than on smaller ones? 
  • How does the structure of ownership and control of overseas operations affect the costs of deglobalization?
  • How does deglobalization impact the lived experiences of MNE managers, relations between workers and managers, and the international human resource management strategies of firms?
  • How does deglobalization affect the entrepreneurial opportunities of overseas supply chain firms?
  • What are the implications of deglobalization for different types of entrepreneurship?
  • Does deglobalization have different impacts on family-owned firms versus other firms?
  • How does deglobalization change the relationship between firms and the state?

Theme 3. Managerial Responses to Deglobalization

             A third major theme is understanding how managers in different types of organizations (MNEs, domestic companies, non-profits) creatively respond to deglobalization. Managers appear to have considerable agency in how they respond to deglobalization. We know from the existing historical research that some multinational firms responded to the deglobalization episodes of the early twentieth century by using cloaking (Boon and Wubs, 2020; Casson and da Silva Lopes, 2013; Donzé and Kurosawa, 2013; Forbes, Kurosawa, and Wubs, 2018; Jones and Lubinski, 2012; Kobrak and Hansen, 2004). In a cloaking strategy, a firm attempts to hide its nationality to avoid being caught in the cross-fire between warring nation states. Other multinational firms of that era exploited the tensions between nations associated with deglobalization to engage in “geopolitical jockeying” (Lubinski and Wadhwani, 2020). Historically, some firms responded to deglobalization by embracing host country’s nationalism (Moreno, 2005) or by strategically incorporating members of a protectionist host country’s elite into the firm’s hierarchy (Bucheli and Salvaj, 2018; Garner, 2011). Firms have also used wartime sanctions regimes to attain competitive advantage (Mulder, 2022). We would therefore welcome historical and history-informed papers that deal with such questions as:

  • Which strategies have managers developed to deal with deglobalization?
  • How can managers draw on their knowledge of history in trying to respond to deglobalization?  How have they done so?
  • Does deglobalization create profit opportunities for entrepreneurs and firms and, if so, how are such opportunities identified and exploited?
  • What ethical dilemmas does deglobalization create for managers and how do they resolve them?
  • How might deglobalization change how the managers of multinational firms make decisions about how to enter new markets and manage political risk?  


Submission deadline: 1 July 2023

Expected Publication: Late 2025

• Submissions should be prepared using the JMS Manuscript Preparation Guidelines


• Manuscripts should be submitted using the JMS ScholarOne system


• Articles will be reviewed according to the JMS double-blind review process.

• We welcome informal enquiries relating to the Special Issue, proposed topics, and potential fit with the Special Issue objectives. Please direct any questions on the Special Issue to the guest editors.

  • Marcelo Bucheli, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
  • Daniel Raff, University of Pennsylvania and NBER: dan
  • Andrew Smith, University of Liverpool:
  • Heidi Tworek, University of British Columbia:



Online workshops for individuals interested in submitting to the Special Issue will be held in the autumn of 2022. Potential contributors are strongly encouraged to attend at least one of these workshops, which will be held at times to accommodate researchers in different time zones. The guest editors will discuss the aims and scope of the Special Issue and will answer questions from potential contributors at these workshops. Those interested in attending these Zoom workshops should prepare a two-slide PowerPoint presentation that succinctly describes the aims of the paper they are planning to submit.


It is anticipated that the guest editors will organize a special issue in-person revision workshop (date and location TBA) for authors who have received an initial R&R decision on their manuscript. Please note that participation in the workshop does not guarantee acceptance of the paper. Participation in this workshop is also not a prerequisite for publication.


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Boon, M. and Wubs, B. (2020). ‘Property, control and room for manoeuvre: Royal Dutch Shell and Nazi Germany, 1933–1945’. Business History62, 468-87.

Boussebaa, M. and Brown, A. D. (2017). ‘Englishization, identity regulation and imperialism’. Organization Studies38, 7-29.

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Farndale, E., Thite, M., Budhwar, P. and Kwon, B. (2021). ‘Deglobalization and talent sourcing: Cross‐national evidence from high‐tech firms’. Human Resource Management60, 259-72.

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Ganson, B., He, T. L. and Henisz, W. J. (2022). ‘Business and peace: The impact of firm-stakeholder relational strategies on conflict risk’. Academy of Management Review, 47, 259-81.

Hartwell, C. A. and Devinney, T. (2021). ‘Populism, political risk, and pandemics: The challenges of political leadership for business in a post-COVID world’. Journal of World Business56, 101225.

Irwin, D. (2020). ‘The pandemic adds momentum to the deglobalization trend’. Peterson Institute for International Economics. https://www. piie. com/blogs/realtime-economic-issues-watch/pandemic-adds-momentum-deglobalization-trend.

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Van Bergeijk, P. A. (2019). Deglobalization 2.0: Trade and openness during the great depression and the great recession. Edward Elgar Publishing.

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Wadhwani, R. D., Suddaby, R., Mordhorst, M. and Popp, A. (2018). ‘History as organizing: Uses of the past in organization studies’. Organization Studies39, 1663-83.

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Updated Aims and Scope information for Business History

5 09 2022

I’m sharing some information about a recent update to the scope/mission statement of the journal _Business History_

Organizational History Network

The Aims and Scope information for the peer-reviewed journal Business History was recently updated. For more information, visit

Business History is an international journal concerned with the long-run evolution and contemporary operation of business systems and enterprises. Its primary purpose is to make available the findings of advanced research, empirical and conceptual, into matters of global significance, such as corporate organization and growth, multinational enterprise, business efficiency, entrepreneurship, technological change, finance, marketing, human resource management, professionalization and business culture.

The journal has won a reputation for academic excellence and has a wide readership amongst management specialists, economists and other social scientists and economic, social, labour and business historians.

Business History: The emerging agenda

The core strategy of Business History is to promote business history as a sui generis scholarly discipline, engaging on an equal footing with mainstream history and the wider social sciences. To achieve this, the journal…

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And this year’s winner of the ABH Coleman Prize is …

19 08 2022

I’m very proud to announce that my PhD student won the Coleman Prize of the Association of Business Historians (ABH). The prize, which is awarded annually to the best PhD thesis in the field of business history, is named in honour of the late D.C. Coleman. Congratulations to Ian, and to the other candidates short-listed for this prize.

Organizational History Network

On the 1st of July, the Association of Business Historians (ABH) held the Coleman Prize session which featured four excellent presenters: Ian Jones, Nicolaas Strydom, Jeannette Strickland, and Gaurav Pratap Sud. The eventual winner was Ian Jones with his thesis titled Using the past: Authenticity, reliability, and the role of archives in Barclays plc’s use of the past strategies. Ian’s thesis was completed at the University of Liverpool and he was supervised by Dr Margaret Procter and Dr Andrew Smith and Barclays Group Archivists Maria Sienkiewicz. Ian’s thesis analyses the role of Barclays Group Archives (BGA) in the delivery of Barclays’ strategic objectives, abstract below:

Recent scholarship in organisation studies has begun to address how organisations perceive and use their history. However, how organisations preserve and access their history, and how this affects how they are able to use their history is less researched. This thesis investigates how Barclays…

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BHC Mid-Year Conference

12 08 2022

The main theme of the mid-year Business History Conference virtual conference is research methods. It looks like a really important event that should interest all business historians. Fees to participate will be “modest”, we are told.

The theme for the 2022 BHC Mid-Year Conference is “Method and Madness: Reinventing Business History in a New Age of Extremes.” The one-day conference will be organized around three sets of 1.5 hour workshops. The first set of workshops will examine new sources and new uses of old sources in business history research. Sessions will include the uses of visual materials, legal records, account books, and big data, among other sources. The second set of workshops will cover interpretive and analytical techniques, including the interpretation of senses, network analysis, and the rhetorical uses of history. The third set of workshops will cover changes in the representation and dissemination of business history, including both conventional formats (books, scholarly articles) and newer formats (podcasts, social media, etc). 

Check out the details here.

CfP: Capitalism and Informality

16 07 2022

This workshop looks interesting. If you I attend, I won’t be wearing a suit and tie.

Organizational History Network

Submission deadline: 15 September 2022

Conference dates: 14–15 April 2023

The Menard Family George Washington Forum (GWF), which has its home at Ohio University, invites paper proposals for a conference and subsequent special journal issue on the capitalism and informality. The conference will be held at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, on 14 and 15 April 2022. Plenary lectures will be delivered by Kellee Tsai (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Friederike Welter (Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn), and Justin Webb (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

More than a half-century of developmental discourse has portrayed informality as a signal of economic “backwardness”. From the writings of Max Weber to those of Clifford Geertz, Keith Hart, and Alfred Chandler, social scientific theories have suggested that as economies modernize, hierarchical and rationalized forms of economic organization will displace the “unorganized, unincorporated enterprises” and anomic agents of the informal economy. However…

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Postdoctoral Research Fellow Opportunity, Brunel Business School

4 07 2022

I’m sharing some information about a job opportunity for newly minted PhDs in history and allied fields. Deadline is 17/07/2022 and the work would start in September. The job would involve working under Dr Michael Heller on an ESRC funded project that is described here. I know Michael and can attest that he is a very dynamic and entrepreneurial scholar with strong connections to a range of organisations in different parts of the economy. The job advert explicitly states that the university will not sponsor a visa so that someone who doesn’t already have the right to work in the UK could take up this job. ]

 Full Time, Fixed term – (39 Months)                                                                                         

Salary (R1 Grade): £34,304 to £40,927 per annum plus £2,166 per annum London Weighting

We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher to work on the Economic and Social Research Council (UKRI) funded project, ‘An Institutional History of Internal Communication in the UK’. The research will span the period 1880 to the present. It will involve research in a diverse range of archives that include the National Archive, the British Library, business archives such as those of Unilever and Boots, and the archives of professional associations such as the Institute of Internal Communication and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Research will take place in the London Area and occasionally further afield in the UK. It will also include working alongside our nine project partners from business and professional associations, and the British Library.

You will have a PhD in history, and/or a background in archival research. We accept candidates from all areas and periods of history, but are particularly interested in those with a background in business history or modern social and economic history. Candidates are also expected to be conversant in digital and social media as the successful applicant will be responsible for the website, blog, and social media platforms of the project.

Working alongside the PI Dr Michael Heller (Brunel University), and CI Professor Michael Rowlinson (University of Exeter), the position offers exciting opportunities for the development of historical research skills in business and professional archives, publishing in leading global journals, and career development. With a focus on social impact and knowledge exchange, the position also furnishes opportunites to work alongside major corporations, professional associations, and the British Library.

Informal enquires can be made to Dr Michael Heller at (no applications should be sent by email to this address)

Closing date for applications:  Sunday 17th July 2022

For further details and to apply please visit

*This position does not meet the University criteria for Skilled Worker sponsorship.

Brunel University London is fully committed to creating and sustaining a fully inclusive workforce culture. We support flexible working. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and communities, we particularly welcome applicants who are currently under- represented in our workforce.

My Papers at the European Business History Association Conference

24 06 2022

The EBHA conference is currently taking place in Madrid. I have two co-authored papers on the programme.

Andrew David Smith (University of Liverpool Management School), Nicholas Wong (Northumbria University), Nic Burton (Northumbria University), Ellie
Charalambous (Northumbria University), Allan Discua Cruz (Lancaster University),
The Organizational Paradox of Overseas Worker Exploitation in Quaker-Managed
Confectionary Firms: 1890 to 1917

This paper contributes to theoretical debates about organizational paradoxes through a case study of early twentieth century Quaker confectionary firms that were accused of complicity in slavery overseas.

Andrew David Smith (University of Liverpool Management School), Marta Herrero (York University), Ian Jones (Northumbria University Newcastle), Nicholas Wong (Northumbria University)
Bourdieusian Capital Conversion During Crises of Legitimacy: An examination of
the emergent strategies of Barclays Bank in sponsoring the arts in the UK, 1972 to

This paper contributes to Bourdieusian management theory by examining how managers in a British multinational bank made decisions about how to convert financial capital into symbolic capital so as to maintain the socio-political legitimacy of the firm.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it to Madrid but in both cases my co-authors will be there to share research findings.

Historical Research Methods for Management Scholars Workshop

16 06 2022

I’m going to be presenting today to a workshop on historical methods in management research. My presentation will be on process tracing.

Thursday 16th June 2-6 pm UK time
On Zoom – link sent to participants via Outlook invitation[1]

14:00 – 14:15 Welcome and introduction (Bill, Elena & Steph)

14:15 – 15:00 Breakout groups: Sessions 1 + 2  (45 mins)

Session 1 (45 mins):

Chair: Bill Foster
Part 1 – Perspectives on historical methods: Theoretical discussions about historical methods from different perspectives

Chapter 2 – ANTi History, Gabrielle Durepos

Chapter 3 – Historical Organization Studies, Charles Harvey & Mairi Maclean

Chapter 5 – Historical narratives, Mick Rowlinson & John Hassard & Steph Decker (Mick)

Session 2 (45 mins):

Chair: Elena Giovannoni

Part 2.1 – Historical data and sources: Ontological, Epistemological and practical ways of conducting historical research.

Chapter 7 – What is an archive?, Amon Barros

Chapter 8 – How to do research in archives?, Kevin Tennant & Alex Gillet (Kevin, Alex will attend until 3 pm)

Chapter 9 – Oral history interviewing, Valeria Giacomin

15:00 – 15:15 Screen break

15:15 – 16:00 Breakout groups: Session 3 + 4

Session 3 (45 mins):

Chair: Stephanie Decker

Part 2.2 – Historical data and sources: Ontological, Epistemological and practical ways of conducting historical research.

Chapter 11 – Archival Research in the Digital Era, Adam Nix, Stephanie Decker, David Kirsch & Santhi Kuppili Venkata (Adam)

Chapter 13 – Process Tracing Historical Research Methods in Management, Andrew Smith

Chapter 14 – Case Studies, Emily Buchnea

Session 4 (45 mins):

Chair: Bill Foster

Part 4.1 – Historical research for organization and society: Empirical examples of historical methods as a way to investigate specific theoretical constructs.

Chapter 21 – The City of London: Genealogy of contemporary heterotopias: Towards heterotopia studies in business and management history. Nelarine Cornelius & Eric Pezet. (Nelarine)

Chapter 22 – Exploring Organisational Identity through historical research methods, Elena Giovannoni & Pasquale Ruggiero (Elena)

Chapter 24 – Embodied microhistories on the move, Jeanne Mengis, Fabio James Petani & Claudia Scholz (Fabio)

16:00 – 16:15 Screen break

16:15 – 16:45 Ellen Pearce, Editorial Manager (Edward Elgar)

General Q&A

16:45 – 17:15 Breakout groups: Session 5 + Session 6 (30 mins)

Session 5 (30 mins):

Chair: Elena Giovannoni

Part 3 – Historical practices of analysing data and sources

Chapter 17 – Prosopography and Microhistory, Garry Carnegie & Karen McBride (Karen)

Chapter 18 – Insightful empirical knowledge in grounded theory and historical organization studies, Trevor Israelsen & J. Robert Mitchell (Trevor)

Chapter 25 – Narrating Rhetorical History to Project the Appearance of Organizational Authenticity. Kai Lamertz.

Session 6 (30 mins):

Chair: Stephanie Decker

Part 4.2 – Historical research for organization and society: Empirical examples of historical methods as a way to investigate specific theoretical constructs.

Chapter 20 – Researching Past Occurrences: Discovering the past through Conversational Inquiry, Francois Bastien & Diego Coraiola (Francois)

Chapter 26 – The interview and researching collective memory, Jukka Rintimakki, Sebastien Mena & William M Foster (Bill)

Chapter 27 – Taming the ‘mythical beast’: Revisiting the myths of historical research in international business scholarship            Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki, Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki & Bareerah Hafeez Hooran (Bareerah, Eriikka)

17:15 – 17:30 Screen break

17:30 – 18:00 Group discussion, summing up, next steps

18:00 End


Business History in the 2021 REF

6 06 2022

The REF is the main instrument the UK government uses to evaluate and incentivise research performance in academic units in universities and other research organisations. Effectively, panels of disciplinary experts gather every seven or so years to evaluate the research calibre of all departments/units within their discipline and then rank those units accordingly. So-called QR (Quality Related) funding from the taxpayer is then allocated to the units with the best research performance and is then used to support research activity. Although there was some discussion early in the pandemic that the REF system might be scrapped entirely so that research funding could be placed on more of a private enterprise basis, that idea was never implemented by Amanda Solloway, the then Minister of Science. (In October 2020 she announced that the 2021 REF would go ahead and that she no intention of disrupting its ‘important work’) . However, the date of the REF census of research performance was pushed back because of the pandemic, which meant the results of the REF were not published until early May 2022. (For the REF rankings of UK management schools, see here).

I’m pretty certain that the research outputs of most people who work in the field of business history were submitted to Unit of Assessment 17, although some scholars may have had their outputs read and scored by members of the Economics and Econometrics unit of assessment. It is therefore of tremendous interest to see what the REF panel members for Business and Management Studies think about the contribution of business-historical research to business and management studies. Charles Harvey, a very distinguished business history at the University of Newcastle, forwarded this analysis of business history and the REF to his fellow members of the Association of the Business Historians. His insights are useful because they give us a sense of how REF reviewers likely to view business historical research outputs in the future. Research evaluation, like beauty pageants, has a huge subjective element and is highly culturally specific. What might be considered good research in one national context would not be considered very good in another country. It is therefore very important for business historians in the UK to think about what the REF results reveal about the true preferences of the population of individuals who acted as REF reviewers in 2021, since that population will likely be very similar at the time of the next REF, which will likely be in 2022. The Business and Management academics this time round were predominantly academics at UK universities (a few practitioners from private industry also acted as reviewers), are people with the rank of full professor, and are British citizens either by birth or naturalisation. EDI considerations related to gender and race influenced how the REF panels are formed and every REF panel must include strong representation from each of the four nations of the UK. I strongly suspect that if there is a REF in the future, the same sorts of principles will inform how the REF juries are appointed. I also know that REF panellists take their fiduciary duties to the taxpayer seriously, just as citizens who serve on criminal case juries generally take their work seriously.

For an individual researcher, several key points stand out from Charles’s analysis. First, the reviewers tend to respect and give brownie points to publications based on solid archival research. That’s useful data for people planning how to allocate their scarce research time. Second, those books that were submitted to the REF were highly rated by the scholars who read them. (Knowing how academics think about the world, I bet that books published by the presses of ancient universities scored very highly indeed). Third, business historians must continue to work to contribute to theoretical debates.

May 2022
Overview report by Main Panel C
and Sub-panels 3 to24
Business History

  1. The upward trajectory of the Business History discipline related to Business and Management since REF 2014 is reflected in the increase in both the number and quality of submitted outputs.
  2. The majority of the submitted outputs were deemed to be world-leading or internationally excellent, in terms of originality, rigour and significance. Outputs displayed strength from both empirical and theoretical perspectives. In addition, a pleasing number of outputs addressed methodological advancements within the domain. While the vast majority of submitted outputs were journal articles, authored books were also a feature, with the majority of submitted books judged to be of world- leading quality.
  3. Several key issues were characteristic of the discipline’s development since REF 2014 and worthy of note. Firstly, the growing importance of the role of Business History in advancing theory; secondly, the increasing interdisciplinarity of the area, evident, for example, in the emergence of historical organisation studies. Methodologically, the discipline embraced diverse approaches. However, archival research dominated those outputs judged to be world-leading. A striking feature of the discipline was the very high level of rigour evident across the returned outputs.
  4. Business History clearly reaches across the range of B&M disciplines, making contributions, for example, to Entrepreneurship, International Business, Marketing, Retailing, Strategy, Accounting, Political Economy, Finance and Economics.

How Not To Think About the Relationship Between African Slavery and Business in the Present

25 05 2022

In the last week, there has been an epic social media flame war between some members of the business history community about the historical relationship between business and slavery. The debate has been frustrating to watch because it has involved scholars, some of whom are hardworking publishers with good research outputs, throwing around vague claims that would be hard to test empirically. Even worse, there has been name calling among the community of academics who do historical research and who work in management schools.

In any event, the debate can be summarised more or less as follows. The implied theory of historical causation that is lurking in the position of one side of this debate is that African slavery (the middle passage, the cotton plantations of the American south, etc) was the foundation of the cluster of economic institutions that we today label as “capitalism”. The apparent claim is that capitalism today, particularly the variant of capitalism in existence in the United States, is different than it otherwise would have been because slavery was, for a long time, an integral part of the economic system of part of the Western world. There is a slightly different claim which says that “managerial practices” were changed because of slavery — the insinuation is that how some or all managers today do their jobs is slightly or significantly different than would otherwise have been the case because of slavery. Precisely how “capitalism” or “management” is measurably different because of slavery’s legacy is never really stated and there is zero effort to quantify or to specific examples of actions in the present that are influenced by the slavery. A closely related implied claim is that GDPPC in the US and the UK today are somehow higher than would otherwise have been the case. This claim or rather insinuation was made by some of the non-academic authors associated with the 1619 project. In plain English, the argument is that white British people and white Americans are richer today than otherwise would have been the case because some of their ancestors enslaved and exploited Africans. (For a fair and recent summary of this debate, see this new paper in the JEL by Gavin Wright).

The other side in this debate hates these three claims and seems to see painstaking scholarly research trying to document the historical legacies of slavery as all a pile of crap of the type Jordan Peterson warned you about. There is a large dose of ideology running through these debates.

Personally, I think that the debate over the historical relationship between historical slavery and present-day capitalism is long on gross generalizations and short on details. I’m also disturbed that the terms of the debate are being framed by a series of articles in a freaking newspaper (!!!). Rather than talking about capitalism in general, they should talk about capitalism in specific places. I used to share the view that we shouldn’t use the vague term “capitalism” at all in academic research, since it was originally a term of abuse coined by snobbish people who just didn’t like businessmen. However, I’ve been convinced that it can helpful to use this term as a shorthand for what the WTO and international trade lawyers call “countries with Market Economy Status (MES)” or what I might call “societies in which market mechanisms and price signals play a leading role in coordinating production”. If the term capitalism is good enough for Oliver Williamson, it’s good enough for me.

However, if we are going to use the term capitalism in historical analysis, we should be very attentive to differences between forms of capitalism in different times and places. There is a vast literature showing that institutions of capitalism vary considerable even among OECD countries. There is also a hell of a lot of variation in institutions within countries, both between industries and between regions. Is capitalism in Manhattan really the same as capitalism in rural Maine? Similarly, what we mean by “business” varies by time and place. Keep these distinctions between types of capitalism and types of business in mind is crucial in thinking carefully about the legacies of slavery. I’m pleading for nuance and following the evidence here.

I would strongly suspect that the institutions of capitalism in, say, present-day Munich or Salt Lake City, were not affected that much by African slavery. Other local histories made capitalism in those places different from what might be called generic capitalism. However, I strongly suspect that capitalism in Alabama or Brazil is different from capitalism elsewhere precisely because of slavery and its legacies. We know from an AMJ paper by Pierce and Snyder (2020) that there are measurable differences between the institutions of capitalism in those African countries that were directly affected by the slave trade compared to those that weren’t visited by European slave traders. It is very plausible to argue that these differences are somehow caused by the legacies of slavery because we know from other research that the parts of Africa where Europeans sourced slaves were permanently changed by all of the slave-raiding and slave-trading. According to research done by Nathan Nunn and colleagues, African people from those tribes were targetted by the slave trade are less trusting of strangers than are other Africans, even after you control for other variables (understandably so!). Given that so much of what we call business/capitalism is based on trust (e.g. in a restaurant, the staff bring food to the table in the hopes the customer will pay for it after), it would be strange indeed if the legacies of historical slavery didn’t produce a measurable impact on business activity in some way. The fact Alabama is a relatively poor state probably isn’t exclusively a function of the fact it was a slave state, but it is plausible to hypothesise that slavery has something to do with its present-day economic position and that the US as a whole would today be wealthier if there had never been slavery in the South. We know that the homicide rate in the Deep South is about three times higher than in the parts of the US than in the states that remained in the Union during the Civil War. Counties in the western states that were settled by white Southerners after the abolition of slavery are today more violent than are countries in the west that were settled by whites from the North after the abolition of slavery. (Yes, there are mass shootings even in New England, but in general the old slave states are more violent).

I suspect that the best way to research the impact of slavery on present-day capitalism in the United States would be to use county level data. You would look at the US counties that had the most slaves in 1860, then do a regression analysis to see how business and management in those counties today is different. The same basic procedure found that homicide rates are today highest in the US counties that had the most slavery in 1860. Even after you control for all of the other variables, the historical incidence of slavery as reported by the 1860 census explains much the variance in homicides rates between US counties. Lots of studies have found that the  proportion of slaves in a UC county’s population in the 1860 census is associated with lots of negative socio-economic outcomes in the present. Why not use that tried and tested methodology to investigate the long-term impact of slavery on management and business? I suspect that we would find that the presence of many slaves in a county in 1860 is associated with fewer patent filings per capita in the present.