The program committee was: Jeff Fear (chair), University of Redlands; Sally Clarke, University of Texas; Tracey Deutsch, University of Minnesota; Robert Weems, University of Missouri; Shane Hamilton, University of Georgia; and Steven Tolliday (BHC President-elect), University of Leeds.
'The Business History of Everything'
Business history for many years was primarily associated with the study of firms and formal business institutions. Recently its scope has widened drastically to include a far greater diversity of economic institutions and practices. It is now widely accepted that Business History is not just about the history of businesses. One of the driving ideas behind the foundation of the BHC journal Enterprise & Society (reflected in the choice of name) was that business historians now had to grapple with much more fluid ideas of what 'business' was and draw on a new range of concepts and approaches to deal with this. There are in fact a very wide range of human enterprises that can usefully be conceptualized as 'businesses' (the organization of production and services for use and gain) and 'business history' provides approaches and methodologies for the historical analysis of economic and social institutions that can be applied across a huge range of fields.
Work that has been primarily conceptualized in different scholarly discourses can be examined (sometimes against the grain) from a 'business history' perspective often with interesting or provocative implications. Just a few examples discussed in Enterprise & Society in the last few years include: the marketplace of Christianity; the culture and commerce of chewing gum; intellectual property law and musical creativity; the commercial aspects of cultural practices; and business histories of murder, sport, holidays, childhood, hunger, war, retirement, sex, fraud, sickness and beauty. However, as yet, only a limited amount of these types of studies have been fully presented directly at the annual meetings of the Business History Conference.
The Conference theme of 'The Business History of Everything' aims to highlight the dual themes of widening the scope of business history and using its insights to re-vision many cognate areas of historical study. It also seeks to highlight the integration of the methods and practices of business history with other scholarly discourses and aims to stimulate fruitful encounters and interactions and help widen frames of reference and make kindred sub-disciplines more aware of the insights that a 'business history' angle on their problems might generate. Also, in light of the current global economic crisis we would particularly welcome papers on the impact of ruptures and breakdowns, destruction and reconstruction in business history.
Finally, in recognition of Barack Obama's first year as the first black President of the United States, we intend to feature a major sub-theme on race and ethnicity in business history, including a projected plenary on 'African American and Ethnic Business History' and a series of related panels. Alongside this, as always, the BHC program committee will also be pleased to entertain submissions not directly related to the conference themes.