Proposal preview

Multiple Futures for Business History: Building on Recent Debates and Suggestions

The purpose of this session is to take stock of the recent debates about the future(s) of business history, where scholars from within the discipline and others from its outside have made many suggestions regarding a wide range of –supposedly– new topics, a re-configuration of relationships to other academic disciplines, and an expansion of the methodological and theoretical foundations of their research. While seeking to identify possible ways forward, the session also aims to re-examine the discipline’s own past, proposing to go beyond the widely used juxtaposition of a Chandlerian and post Chandlerian period as well as its limited, often US-centric geographical focus – instead trying to go back to the historical schools of economics and sociology in the 19th century, examining various mechanisms and paths of causation, looking beyond the firm (of whatever size and activity) to other levels of analysis, and trace the multiple paths of these research endeavors and their intellectual and institutional foundations both within the US and elsewhere. The session builds on a worldwide surge of interest in and debates about the study of business history over the past decade or so, which has animated panel discussions at many conferences and programmatic articles and books, not only in the US and Western Europe but also in Japan. This has included:
(i) a re-writing or questioning of conventional accounts from the perspective of other academic disciplines and their theoretical and methodological bases, e.g. Lamoureaux, Raff, and Temin (2003) based on transaction-cost and information-asymmetry in economics, Hansen (2012) drawing on narrative and cultural (postmodern) history, or Kipping and Üsdiken (2014) pointing to the variety of research in organization and management studies using historical data or including the “past” in their theorizing.
(ii) attempts to explain the particular challenges when working with historical sources and codify the methods used to analyze them for those not having gone to the apprenticeship-like training as historians (Decker 2013; Lipartito 2014; Kipping, Wadwhani and Bucheli 2014); combined with somewhat provocative suggestions on using more hypothesis testing in business history (de Jong, Higgins, and van Driel 2015), countered by others, arguing for plurality in methodological approaches (Decker, Kipping & Wadhwani, 2015).
(iii) suggestions for prospective topics worthwhile for business historians to research, some more open (e.g. Friedman and Jones 2011) others more prescriptive (e.g. Scranton and Fridenson 2013) – and most of them still moored to a Chandlerian heritage, even when rejecting it; with yet others suggesting how those outside business history, and in particular management scholars, might benefit from more historical reflexivity and closer interaction with historians – and not only business historians (e.g. Hassard, Rowlinson and Decker 2014; Wadhwani and Bucheli 2014).


  • Matthias Kipping , Schulich School of Business,,
  • Takafumi Kurosawa, Kyoto University,,
  • Christina Lubinski, Copenhagen Business School,,
  • Daniel Wadhwani, University of the Pacific,,

Session members

  • Marcelo Bucheli, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
  • Eric Godelier, Ecole Polytechnique,
  • Per Hansen, Copenhagen Business School,
  • Geoffrey Jones, Harvard Business School,
  • Kenneth Lipartito, Florida International University,
  • Peter M Miskell, Henley Business School at University of Reading,
  • Mads Mordhorst, Copenhagen Business School,
  • Andrew Popp, University of Liverpool Management School,
  • Daniel Raff, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania,
  • Sebastian Teupe, University of Bayreuth,
  • JoAnne Yates, MIT Sloan School of Management,
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Proposed discussant(s)

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