Abstract: Toward a New Entrepreneurial History

R. Daniel Wadhwani and Christina Lubinski


Research on entrepreneurship remains underdeveloped and fragmented in business history today. A lack of conceptual clarity inhibits comparisons between studies and dialogue among scholars. We address this problem by drawing on both classical and recent historical scholarship to propose “new entrepreneurial history” as a coherent subfield and unique approach to business history. We define entrepreneurship as “the processes of envisioning and pursuing futures, cumulatively changing capitalism from within.” We begin by exploring how new entrepreneurial history builds on but differs from earlier waves of historical scholarship on entrepreneurship. Next, we elaborate on the premises that distinguish new entrepreneurial history from other approaches to the field. Third, we explore the processes of (i) opportunity recognition, (ii) resource allocation and reconfiguration, and (iii) legitimization as its primary objects of study. Finally, we consider unique contributions it could make to business history.