Abstract

The Growth of US Multinational Enterprises and the Birth of International Business as an Academic Discipline

In the 1950s and 60s, US firms became more international and expanded as multinational enterprises both in volume and geographically (Wilkins, 1974). The academic community observed this process and started to develop educational programs and research on internationalization and multinationals. Raymond Vernon’s research project on the multinational enterprise at Harvard Business School (HBS) from 1965 (Vernon, 1999), and the new journal (Columbia) Journal of World Business from the same year, are some of the initiatives in the US that contributed to the creation of the new discipline International Business (Shenkar, 2004). The academic interest in the growth of MNEs also led to new educational programs, including new teaching cases. This paper explores how US business schools interacted with American businesses in their internationalization process. The paper is based on a source that has remained untapped. In 1964, the Ford Foundation financed a project to gather information about all teaching cases written from 1955 to 1964 that were relevant for developing educational programs on multinationals. We have created a database based on information from the 483 cases that the project collected. Faculty members at US business schools authored 176 cases, and 307 were written at foreign business schools. The cases are highly germane expressions of what the academics perceived as relevant for internationalization of firms in a formative period of IB. The cases reflect how business schools collected information from cooperating business schools internationally to support the internationalization process. The cases supported to the geographical direction of the internationalization process. Further, we show that access to information from corporations’ internationalization experiences was crucial for the development of IB. Content wise, the cases were heterogeneous but give indications on the construction of the new discipline.