Abstract: International Business and National War Interests: Lever Brothers and Unilever during World War II

Ben Wubs


This paper discusses the role of multinational firms during wartime. It explores the tensions between the interests of international business and national states. It draws on the case study of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch multinational formed in 1929, which provides an unusually interesting example of corporate governance issues in this period. The paper focuses on the fate of Unilever's business in its three main European markets—Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany—during the war. The main questions at stake are: how did Unilever manage to survive World War II, even though its raw materials were in short supply, the Nazis tried to get hold of the Unilever shares on the Continent, and the British Trading with the Enemy Act complicated international business?