Abstract

About Africa or from Africa? A new look at Business History in an African context
Nicolaas T. Strydom

“When Norman S. B. Gras set out to create the first course in "business history" at the Harvard Business School in 1927, he found such a paucity of secondary material on the subject that he was forced to prepare his own.” Fast forward nearly a century and this description by Ralph Hidy (1970), a former Isidor Strauss Professor of Business History at Harvard, may be aptly applied to business history at African universities. While American business history has undergone synthesis (under Gras, Larson, Chandler, McCraw, and others) and re-synthesis (Whitten & Whitten; Lamoreaux, Raff & Temin; Amatori & Jones; Scranton & Fridenson, and many others), Africa and its sub-regions have yet to accumulate substantial bodies of research and seminal works. 

The purpose of this study is twofold: firstly, to explore the identity of existing African business history literature, in order to understand in which context such literature originates, by whom it is written and where its focus lies. To this end, a quasi-bibliometric inquiry is made into the origin, focus, and pervasiveness of African business history articles that have appeared in leading business history journals between 1990 and 2016. Secondly, by understanding the dynamics of existing African business history research, the paper will attempt to make recommendations to promote future research in African business history.