Proposal preview

Entrepreneurs and their Endeavours from 1300 to 1900: Innovations in Products, Processes and Markets

Entrepreneurs are an important source of innovation because they possess the ability both to recognise opportunities and to judge whether or not they are viable to pursue. Working individually and collaboratively they have found solutions to technological and institutional problems and created entirely new business sectors. Profits from their enterprises have been used philanthropically to improve education and welfare (Casson and Casson, 2013; Casson and Lee, 2011; Jones and Friedman, 2011; Bucheli and Wadhwani, 2014). Yet despite their significance, their role has often been overshadowed in the economic history and business history scholarship by a focus on the large firm and its managerial structure. This session has developed from recent academic work on the history of entrepreneurship which has highlighted the need to re-incorporate entrepreneurs into academic scholarship. Innovation is a cumulative process, with entrepreneurs often learning from the ‘best practice’ of their predecessors. The long-run chronological spread of this session from 1300 to 1900 demonstrates this continuous process and complements the first-call sessions by extending the coverage back in time to the middle ages.
Medieval entrepreneurs created an international cloth trade and a dynamic property market, Lee and Casson demonstrate. Commodities, including cloth, were traded in markets which, Masschaele shows, were a focus of significant entrepreneurial investment whose success or failure depended on the entrepreneurial strategies of their founder. Entrepreneurs, notably the Medici family, established global brands for these commodities, as Fredona and Lopes demonstrate.
The early modern period saw new business sectors emerge, based on commodifying creativity. Harbor shows that successive entrepreneurial innovations resulted in a move from a court, church and aristocratic centred cultural life to a vibrant commercial concert and publishing sector.
Subsequent generations created further institutional changes in the cultural sector, aided by new railway distribution networks, as Joseph’s examination of British publishers in 1843-1900 illustrates. Newly formed joint-stock banks financed these entrepreneurial firms, Barnes and Newton argue. Profits were not only recycled into the business, however. Textile entrepreneurs in nineteenth-century Blackburn engaged in cultural pursuits by purchasing medieval coins and manuscripts. They bequeathed these items to the local community for future generations to enjoy and examine. In their field of trade, and in their interest in the middle ages, Johnston’s nineteenth century textile entrepreneurs, who end our session, resonate with Lee’s medieval clothiers, who commence it.
References
M. Bucheli and R. D. Wadhwani (eds.) (2014), Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods (Oxford: OUP); M. Casson and C. Casson (2013) The Entrepreneur in History: From Medieval Merchant to Modern Business Leader (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke); M. Casson and J. S. Lee (2011), ‘The Origin and Development of Markets: A Business History Perspective’, Business History Review 85: 9-37; G. G. Jones, and W. Friedman (2011), ‘Business History: Time for Debate’, Business History Review 85: 1–8.

Organizer(s)

  • Catherine Casson University of Manchester catherine.casson@manchester.ac.uk UK
  • John S Lee University of York jsl500@york.ac.uk UK
  • Daniel Wadhwani University of the Pacific dwadhwani@pacific.edu US

Session members

  • John S Lee, University of York
  • Catherine Casson, University of Manchester
  • James Masschaele, Rutgers University
  • Robert Fredona, University of York
  • Teresa da Silva Lopes, University of York
  • Catherine Harbor, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Marrisa Joseph, University of Reading
  • Victoria Barnes, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History
  • Lucy Newton, University of Reading
  • Cynthia Johnston, University of London

Discussant(s)

  • Daniel Wadhwani University of the Pacific dwadhwani@pacific.edu

Papers

Panel abstract

Entrepreneurs are an important source of innovation because they possess the ability both to recognise opportunities and to judge whether or not they are viable to pursue. Working individually and collaboratively they have found solutions to technological and institutional problems and created entirely new business sectors. Profits from their enterprises have been used philanthropically to improve education and welfare. Yet, despite their significance, their role has often been overshadowed in the economic history and business history scholarship by a focus on the large firm. This session showcases research on the history of entrepreneurship which highlights the need to re-incorporate entrepreneurs into academic scholarship. Innovation is a cumulative process, with entrepreneurs often learning from the ‘best practice’ of their predecessors. The long-run chronological spread of this session from 1300 to 1900 demonstrates this continuous process and extends the coverage of entrepreneurial activities back in time to the middle ages.

1st half

The leading clothiers of the later middle ages: entrepreneurial and innovative or exceptional and irrelevant?

John S. Lee

This paper provides a new study of clothiers who managed the making and marketing of woollen cloth in late medieval England. Clothiers co-ordinated the different processes of cloth-making, in some cases carrying out stages of production themselves, and found markets for their finished cloth, selling to merchants, drapers and other traders. While many clothiers were of only modest status or ‘jacks of all trades’, a handful of individuals amassed huge fortunes through the trade, becoming the multi-millionaires of their day. The paper examines clothiers as entrepreneurs and early capitalists, employing wage labour and establishing early factories, as well as exploring their family backgrounds and their roles as patrons of church rebuilding and charitable activities.

This paper provides a new study of clothiers who managed the making and marketing of woollen cloth in late medieval England. Clothiers co-ordinated the different processes of cloth-making, in some cases carrying out stages of production themselves, and found markets for their finished cloth, selling to merchants, drapers and other traders. While many clothiers were of only modest status or ‘jacks of all trades’, a handful of individuals amassed huge fortunes through the trade, becoming the multi-millionaires of their day. The paper examines clothiers as entrepreneurs and early capitalists, employing wage labour and establishing early factories, as well as exploring their family backgrounds and their roles as patrons of church rebuilding and charitable activities.

Enterprise and urban development: Property speculation in medieval English towns

Catherine Casson

It is now recognized that the modern market system developed about 1250 rather than about 1750. Legal innovations, the sub-division of estates, and the growth of towns and trade all provided new opportunities for entrepreneurs. While urban and economic historians have explored the development of commodity markets and local trade during this period of commercialisation, the role of the property market has been relatively under-researched in comparison. Cambridge has excellent sources for the study of urban property due to the Hundred Rolls of 1279. These record 1,081 properties, detailing the names of owners, previous owners, property location, use, and the rents paid to named private individuals and religious and civic institutions. Property hot-spots are identified using statistical analysis. Portfolios acquired by entrepreneurial families are examined through a re-creation of family trees. Profits from property were recycled by entrepreneurs back into the wider community in a form of compassionate capitalism.

It is now recognized that the modern market system developed about 1250 rather than about 1750. Legal innovations, the sub-division of estates, and the growth of towns and trade all provided new opportunities for entrepreneurs. While urban and economic historians have explored the development of commodity markets and local trade during this period of commercialisation, the role of the property market has been relatively under-researched in comparison. Cambridge has excellent sources for the study of urban property due to the Hundred Rolls of 1279. These record 1,081 properties, detailing the names of owners, previous owners, property location, use, and the rents paid to named private individuals and religious and civic institutions. Property hot-spots are identified using statistical analysis. Portfolios acquired by entrepreneurial families are examined through a re-creation of family trees. Profits from property were recycled by entrepreneurs back into the wider community in a form of compassionate capitalism.

Investment and management strategies of market holders in medieval England

James Masschaele

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed tremendous economic growth all across Europe. One of the key developments in the period was the formation of integrated networks of regional markets that allowed commodities produced in the countryside (grain, wool, hides, and so on) to enter into commercial circulation much more readily than at any time since the collapse of the Roman Empire. This paper explores the forms of investment associated with setting up a new market in medieval England and assesses the costs and benefits derived from a market’s operation. It argues that the “market for markets” had become quite competitive by the early thirteenth century and that the success or failure of a particular venture depended to a considerable extent on the entrepreneurial strategies of the founder. Successful ventures could be highly remunerative, but would-be creators of markets were far more likely to see their investment fail than succeed.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed tremendous economic growth all across Europe. One of the key developments in the period was the formation of integrated networks of regional markets that allowed commodities produced in the countryside (grain, wool, hides, and so on) to enter into commercial circulation much more readily than at any time since the collapse of the Roman Empire. This paper explores the forms of investment associated with setting up a new market in medieval England and assesses the costs and benefits derived from a market’s operation. It argues that the “market for markets” had become quite competitive by the early thirteenth century and that the success or failure of a particular venture depended to a considerable extent on the entrepreneurial strategies of the founder. Successful ventures could be highly remunerative, but would-be creators of markets were far more likely to see their investment fail than succeed.

Entrepreneurship, brands and the Medici in Renaissance global business

Robert Fredona, Teresa da Silva Lopes

During the Renaissance, Medici family partnerships exported woolen cloth to the Eastern Mediterranean, supplying the growing Turkish demand for luxury textiles. These entrepreneurs extensively used marks (called segni, “signs”) to identify, protect, and market their firms and their products in a highly-competitive global marketplace. But what were the origins of these marks? How were they employed? What was their legal status? And what do they tell us about the origins of the trade mark? Using the extraordinary Selfridge Collection of Medici account books and letters at Harvard Business School's Baker Library, we will begin to answer these questions and to show how Renaissance trademarks functioned in the creation of the world's earliest global brands.

During the Renaissance, Medici family partnerships exported woolen cloth to the Eastern Mediterranean, supplying the growing Turkish demand for luxury textiles. These entrepreneurs extensively used marks (called segni, “signs”) to identify, protect, and market their firms and their products in a highly-competitive global marketplace. But what were the origins of these marks? How were they employed? What was their legal status? And what do they tell us about the origins of the trade mark? Using the extraordinary Selfridge Collection of Medici account books and letters at Harvard Business School's Baker Library, we will begin to answer these questions and to show how Renaissance trademarks functioned in the creation of the world's earliest global brands.

2nd half

"The masters of musick finding that mon[e]y was to be got this way, determined to take the business into their owne hands”:Entrepreneurial opportunities and activities in the development of music as a business in London 1650-1750

Catherine Harbor

“Given that entrepreneurship is a basic human capability for finding solutions to both technological and institutional problems, each innovation made by entrepreneurs provides a platform from which subsequent innovations can be made” (Casson & Casson, 2014). Thus it was with the gradual emergence of music as a business in London from the mid-seventeenth century onwards. The Civil War disrupted musical life in the royal court, church and aristocratic households. However the Restoration and urbanisation provided new opportunities for musicians. Musicians responded with a series of entrepreneurial innovations in the performance and publication of music which signal the beginnings of the development of music as a business in London.

“Given that entrepreneurship is a basic human capability for finding solutions to both technological and institutional problems, each innovation made by entrepreneurs provides a platform from which subsequent innovations can be made” (Casson & Casson, 2014). Thus it was with the gradual emergence of music as a business in London from the mid-seventeenth century onwards. The Civil War disrupted musical life in the royal court, church and aristocratic households. However the Restoration and urbanisation provided new opportunities for musicians. Musicians responded with a series of entrepreneurial innovations in the performance and publication of music which signal the beginnings of the development of music as a business in London.

Publishing Power Houses: Publishers as Institutional Entrepreneurs in Britain 1843-1900

Marrisa Joseph

Increasing attention is being paid to the ability of institutional entrepreneurs to use their resources or other type of power to influence the evolution of organizational fields. However such processes have received less attention from an historical perspective. This paper explores the mechanisms used by some of the nineteenth century’s most influential publishers in Britain, notably Alexander (1818-96) and Sir Frederick Macmillan (1851-1936), George Routledge (1812-88) and Charles Edward Mudie (1818-90). It examines how and why their entrepreneurial activities created divergent change in the Victorian publishing industry. As the market for literature grew, previous business structures based on bookseller/publisher consortiums were rejected. Competition between publishing houses intensified. Publishers became more adventurous, and entrepreneurial behaviour was more openly accepted; providing opportunities for new innovations and changing the landscape of the industry. The paper examines how these influential publishers adapted business practices to gain dominance in the field.

Increasing attention is being paid to the ability of institutional entrepreneurs to use their resources or other type of power to influence the evolution of organizational fields. However such processes have received less attention from an historical perspective. This paper explores the mechanisms used by some of the nineteenth century’s most influential publishers in Britain, notably Alexander (1818-96) and Sir Frederick Macmillan (1851-1936), George Routledge (1812-88) and Charles Edward Mudie (1818-90). It examines how and why their entrepreneurial activities created divergent change in the Victorian publishing industry. As the market for literature grew, previous business structures based on bookseller/publisher consortiums were rejected. Competition between publishing houses intensified. Publishers became more adventurous, and entrepreneurial behaviour was more openly accepted; providing opportunities for new innovations and changing the landscape of the industry. The paper examines how these influential publishers adapted business practices to gain dominance in the field.

Lending to entrepreneurial firms: Credit provision by small scale-banks to small-scale enterprise in nineteenth century England

Vicky Barnes, Lucy Newton

This paper explores the activity of the early, small-scale English joint-stock banks in the provision of credit during the first half of the nineteenth century. These were small-scale banks lending to small and medium sized enterprises. Formed after 1826, joint-stock banks took the place of private banks and adopted more managerial, corporate governance structures than their private predecessors. The research employs data from bank archives to show that changes in organisational form did not result in a new revolutionary way to assess credit applicants. The decision to lend remained based upon informal information gathering through commercial networks as well as upon subjective measures, such as the personality or character of the applicant. The findings provide a detailed analysis of lending data to shed light on the ability of entrepreneurial firms to access finance from banks during the first half of the nineteenth century.

This paper explores the activity of the early, small-scale English joint-stock banks in the provision of credit during the first half of the nineteenth century. These were small-scale banks lending to small and medium sized enterprises. Formed after 1826, joint-stock banks took the place of private banks and adopted more managerial, corporate governance structures than their private predecessors. The research employs data from bank archives to show that changes in organisational form did not result in a new revolutionary way to assess credit applicants. The decision to lend remained based upon informal information gathering through commercial networks as well as upon subjective measures, such as the personality or character of the applicant. The findings provide a detailed analysis of lending data to shed light on the ability of entrepreneurial firms to access finance from banks during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Hope from Cotton and Rope: Philanthropic Legacies of Industrialist Entrepreneurs in Blackburn, Lancashire

Cynthia Johnston

The manufacture of cotton in the North West of England was a traditional occupation revolutionized by the innovations of entrepreneurial individuals. The small settlement of Blackburn, Lancashire, became one of the most productive of the cotton manufacturing towns; its development following the arc of the Industrial Revolution. Grace’s Guide lists 87 cotton spinners and manufacturers in 1891, as well as 2 dyers, 1 bleacher and a rope manufacturer, Thomas Hart. For some of these industrialist entrepreneurs, philanthropic activity was a central, moral concern in the teeming manufacturing centre that their businesses had created and sustained. In this paper I will interrogate the philanthropic activity of two Blackburn entrepreneurs: mill owner Arthur Bowdler and rope maker Robert Edward Hart. Philanthropic intent and legacy will be examined in the context of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath.

The manufacture of cotton in the North West of England was a traditional occupation revolutionized by the innovations of entrepreneurial individuals. The small settlement of Blackburn, Lancashire, became one of the most productive of the cotton manufacturing towns; its development following the arc of the Industrial Revolution. Grace’s Guide lists 87 cotton spinners and manufacturers in 1891, as well as 2 dyers, 1 bleacher and a rope manufacturer, Thomas Hart. For some of these industrialist entrepreneurs, philanthropic activity was a central, moral concern in the teeming manufacturing centre that their businesses had created and sustained. In this paper I will interrogate the philanthropic activity of two Blackburn entrepreneurs: mill owner Arthur Bowdler and rope maker Robert Edward Hart. Philanthropic intent and legacy will be examined in the context of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath.