Abstracts of Annual Meeting Papers

Annual Meeting Author(s) Title Abstract
2016 BHC Meeting Ben Zdencanovic “European Welfare States and American Free Enterprise: Towards a Transnational Reframing of Postwar US Business Conservatism”

Over the past several decades, historians of the 20th century US have been increasingly interested in the ways that a resurgent and politicized business community mobilized in the years following World War II to contain and roll back New Deal reform. The story told thus far, however, has largely been a national one; beyond gesturing to the Manichean effects of the Cold War on US politics, historians of postwar business conservatism have rarely been attuned to global or transnational forces. This paper shows that the postwar rise of the modern welfare state in Western Europe was often at the center of US business conservatives’ political campaigns against social reform and economic interventionism, and that the foil of Western Europe often decisively shaped national-level social policy in fields such as healthcare and housing. The paper uses the case study of the National Association of Real Board’s late 1940s campaign against national public housing legislation. At the center of this lobbying campaign was the negative example of social housing in Britain and France, an exceptionalist narrative that was instrumental in shaping the terms of the 1949 US Housing Act. 

2016 BHC Meeting Ben Zdencanovic “European Welfare States and American Free Enterprise: Towards a Transnational Reframing of Postwar US Business Conservatism”

Over the past several decades, historians of the 20th century US have been increasingly interested in the ways that a resurgent and politicized business community mobilized in the years following World War II to contain and roll back New Deal reform. The story told thus far, however, has largely been a national one; beyond gesturing to the Manichean effects of the Cold War on US politics, historians of postwar business conservatism have rarely been attuned to global or transnational forces. This paper shows that the postwar rise of the modern welfare state in Western Europe was often at the center of US business conservatives’ political campaigns against social reform and economic interventionism, and that the foil of Western Europe often decisively shaped national-level social policy in fields such as healthcare and housing. The paper uses the case study of the National Association of Real Board’s late 1940s campaign against national public housing legislation. At the center of this lobbying campaign was the negative example of social housing in Britain and France, an exceptionalist narrative that was instrumental in shaping the terms of the 1949 US Housing Act. 

2016 BHC Meeting Takafumi Kurosawa Reinterpretation of the Nature of Industry: Methodology and Concepts of the History of Industries

History of industries is one of the most intensively studied topics in the business history. However, there are only few works that deal with the most basic question; what is an industry? This paper examines this question by linking it with another question; “What kind of methodology and key categories are essential for studies on history of industries?” This paper starts with key elements, which forms the boundary of industries. Roles of 1)product, 2)technology and knowledge, 3)function in the economy and 4)market (geographical and social), shall be discussed. In the second section, this paper uses three cases to elucidate the importance of a “industry history view”. The first is a debate in Japan on uses and risks of (over-) application of the “architecture” concept in automobile and some process industries. The second is an implication of comparative studies on paper and steel industry, focusing on the industry-specific consumption pattern and nature of the product. The third case is a transformation of the screw industry for the automobile parts industry (industrial fastener supplier) and possibility to introduce a new concept, “versatile supporting industry”. All three cases suggest systematic attention to the specificity of each industry and conscious application of basic categories are highly important.

2016 BHC Meeting Nicolaas T. Strydom About Africa or from Africa? A new look at Business History in an African context

“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.

2016 BHC Meeting Manuel A. Bautista González Sketching the Supply Side of the Story: The Circulation of Mexican Dollars in Antebellum America, 1792-1860

In a previous paper, I explored the little known, long-lasting influence of Mexican silver dollars on the American monetary supply between 1792 and 1860 following some institutional, legal and economic developments available in secondary sources. I now revisit the problem analyzing some documents I found in two Mexican archives concerning the monetary relationship between antebellum America and Mexico. This is a paper that focuses on the national and international context of the production of Mexican dollars during the nineteenth century. The evidence in the archives I visited is scarce, limited, and fragmentary. There is nevertheless merit in revising it. An official communication from an American officer found in the archives of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs sets the agenda for this paper. The questions in that letter guide what I call the “supply side” of the story. A document from the Mexican National Archive provides for the first time microeconomic evidence (on the Mexican side) for Peter Temin’s explanation of the macroeconomic woes of the United States in the late 1830s. Future work will concern the “demand side” of the story.

2016 BHC Meeting Christina Lubinski and R. Daniel Wadhwani The Material Foundations of Continuity in Family Business: A Uses of History Study

Scholars have long agreed that family business survival depends to a large degree on the emotional commitment of individual members to the family, and that conflict in family firms can be attributed to a lack of “psychological ownership” (Pierce et al., 2001, 2003) To understand continuity and long-term commitment, family business scholars have focused on governance systems, information sharing mechanisms, conflict management and the continuous renewal of family and firm, a balancing act between continuity and change (Sharma & Salvato, 2013). However, the material foundations of emotional commitment have been left largely unexplored. In this paper, we examine the role of material objects, and the practices surrounding these objects, in generating commitment among individual members of a family business and in fostering common identity and a sense of continuity.

The paper draws together two distinct bodies of literature and extends them into the realm of family business research: material culture research and the uses of history. Material culture is a well-established research field. Historians as well as anthropologists, sociologists and organization studies scholars have debated approaches to “things” and their social usage for several decades. Family Business Studies, by contrast, have yet to engage in the material turn. The paper also draws on the emerging literature on the “uses of history” to examine the usage and practices surrounding objects within family businesses. Most of the literature on “uses of history” has focused on language and texts as the foundations for history within organizations (Suddaby et al, 2010; Brunninge, 2009), and the little work that has considered the role of artifacts (Schultz and Hernes, 2013) has tended to focus on their use during pivotal moments of strategy making rather than their ongoing role within the practices of an organization. We therefore seek to extend the uses of history approach to examining ongoing practices and meaning making related to key material objects within family firms.

Specifically we examine three in-depth case studies of German family firms between 1945 and 2000. The companies were investigated through archival research (corporate and regional archives), company visits and eight interviews with family members and employees. We focus particularly on three groups of objects, which we found to be relevant in our case studies: (i) family graves and objects related to burial practices, (ii) family portraits and (iii) “toys”, i.e. objects handed to children in these business families.

First, we use established frameworks from history to show how these objects act as symbolic communicators in both family and firm. Given the strong focus in the literature on domestic objects and personal possessions, including heirlooms and intergenerational gifting, our analysis profits from previous insights about the role of objects as “bundles of meaning,” both summarizing complex relationships and remaining flexible for new and changing interpretations. Graves, portraits and toys, we argue, summarize and “use” history in these organizations for specific purposes, including reinforcing community, socializing new members into the community and communicating continuity and change simultaneously.

Second, we explore the most recent engagement with the link between objects and user practices. Historical “careers of usage practices” unveil how people have become committed and uncommitted to practices in relation to things. Objects have a usage history as well as ideas of how they will be used designed into them. Future practices are thus “scripted,” but they are also subject to time- and context-sensitive adaptations, as we will show based on our sample. In some of our cases, the suggested use of objects generated conflict and resistance so that materiality will yield insights into power relationships and micropolitical processes in family and firm.

The paper contributes to research in three particular ways. First, it extends our understanding of the social mechanisms fostering “psychological ownership” to the material side of generating emotional commitment. Second, by focusing on family firms, the paper advances historical materiality studies because it links the ownership of domestic objects, a recurrent theme, to the realm of business, thus unveiling the intertwined nature of public and private spheres. Finally, tracing usage patterns and changing interpretations of objects requires an historical approach, which neither organizational studies nor family business research can provide on their own.

2016 BHC Meeting R. Daniel Wadhwani Moral Economy in Business History: The Question of Value and the Evolution of Firms and Markets

Post-Chandlerian business history has added a set of new lenses through which scholars now examine the historical evolution of firms and markets. These new perspectives include political economy (John 2006), culture (Hansen 2012), and class and gender relations (Yeager 1999), among other approaches. Recent work has also begun to consider questions of moral economy in business history, sometimes by tracing the antecedents of the contemporary construct of corporate social responsibility(Carroll, Lipartito et al. 2012). In this paper, I seek to contribute to the interest in moral economy within business history by examining how questions of justice and justification might be incorporated in ways that address central research concerns in business history, such as the evolution and growth of firms, the character of competition, and the evolution of industries and sectors.

In particular, I explore the prospect of incorporating moral economy into business history by revisiting an old question examined in historical views on markets and capitalism: what is value and where does it come from? Drawing on both American and European pragmatism (Dewey 1939, Boltanski and Thévenot 2006),  I suggest that the problem of value raises fundamentally moral questions of what ought to be valued and how it ought to be evaluted. Processes of agreement and disagreement among actors over these questions of value, I argue, form a discourse of moral economy within markets that shape coordination, dissent and innovation in economic activities, and contribute to the legitimization of certain new goods, organizational forms and competitive dynamics over others. I develop these ideas in three main body sections.

Section 1 examines the intellectual history of value theory, particularly in the context of historicist perspectives on the evolution of markets and capitalism. Classical political economy, held firmly to an intrinsic labor theory of value; the evolution of capitalism in Marixan (2008 (1865)) historicism hinged in large part on how conflicts over the appropriation of labor value shaped processes of change in capitalism. The neo-classical turn in economics removed questions of value from economics by positing that value was determined by individual “preferences” and hence was autonomous from the market process (Beckert and Aspers 2011). Early twentieth century historical institutionalists, both in the Europe and the United States, critiqued both intrinsic theories of value and neo-classical economics’ supposition that value was autonomously determined by arguing that shared notions of value changed over time and were hence shaped by institutionalized norms and practices(Cooley 1913). But by the mid-twentieth century, as the old institutionalism faded, both economic and business historians focused increasingly on questions of the efficient allocation and combination of resources in markets rather than the antecedent question of value; to the extent that the moral economy of value remained a topic of historical interest it was a subject of labor history and envisioned as a pre-capitalist or anti-capitalist mode of thinking about transactions that modern markets and exchange economy replaced(Thompson 1971). Recent work in business history has highlighted the relevance of moral economy in modern capitalist societies and in shaping competition and firms in markets. But it has not considered how to incorporate moral economy into systematic explanations of the dynamics explaining the evolution of firms and markets – that is, the topics of concern in business history.

Section 2 (re)introduces the question of value as a way to understand how moral economy shapes the historical evolution of firms and markets. Drawing particularly on Dewey (1939) and Boltanski and Thevenot (2006), I suggest that rationales or justifications of value form a kind of moral discourse in markets by articulating the ends a good is designed to serve and how a good should be evaluated in relationship to those ends.  The discourse surrounding a Prius, for instance, justifies valuing a car based on civic and environmental ends in addition to valuing it as a mode of transportation, quite in contrast to say, an SUV. Agreement over what ought to be valued and how to value it in turn helps coordinate activities toward what is understood to be valuable. Dissent and conflict, in contrast, open up the possibility for change and innovation by raising the possibility of alternative ways of valuing a good. I argue that by examining these processes of agreement and disagreement over value in markets, business historians can consider how economic actors view the purposeful ends of activities, and how this works to justify particular organizational forms and modes of competition over time.

In section 3, I seek to apply the line of reasoning developed in Section 2 in explaining processes of change in firms and industries. Specifically, I explore how processes of justification of value within markets shape entrepreneurship and innovation, variations in organizational form and size over time and place, and the nature of the relationships between organizations in industries. These applications, I argue, are suggestive of the ways in which moral justification may be understood as an inherent part of market processes. Specifically, I suggest that by examining processes of agreement and disagreement over worth would allow busienss historians to examine processes of coordination and change in industries.

2016 BHC Meeting Myungsoo Kim A Study on the Transfer Process of the Western Banking System to Korea vis Japan: Hansung Bank and Daiichi Bank

The aim of this paper is to scrutinize how western technology was transferred into East Asia from the late 19th century to the early 20th century by a case study on the introduction of the banking system into Korea via Japan. In this regard, it is important to focus on the relation between Hansung Bank of Korea and Daiichi Bank of Japan.

From the mid-nineteenth century, the Chinese world system in East Asia began to be disturbed in the face of the eastern penetration by the Western powers. Korea, China, and Japan, which often are called “East Asia three countries”, gradually began to be incorporated into the World Capitalist Economy in response to external shocks by the Western powers. When the Treaty of Nanjing was signed on August 29, 1942, after the Opium War between Britain and China, Japan changed its seclusive attitude entirely towards the western powers into an appeasement policy. Korea, which was called Chosun in those days, reinforced its seclusion policy after the French campaign against Korea (1866) and the United States expedition to Korea (1871). The elite bureaucrats and scholars of East Asia three countries felt that the change was irreversible and insisted that they should accept western culture and technology. However, conservative people strenuously resisted change.

After the compulsory opening of Japanese ports to foreign trade by U.S. Commodore Perry in 1853, Japan tried to establish a modern state during the reign of Emperor Meiji. Japan strongly propelled the Meiji Restoration under the slogan of “encouragement of new industry (殖産興業)” and “national prosperity and military power (富國强兵)”. The Iwakura Mission was dispatched to Europe and America in 1871 for further understanding of western culture, economy, and politics. The Unyo Incident (1875) by the Japanese Army and the Treaty of Ganghwa (1876) were expressions of self-confidence. Victories in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 enabled Japan to upgrade its position and range with the Western powers in East Asia. Now Japan had achieved enough economic and military success to fight for the rights and interests with the Western powers in Korea and China. Japan depended on its military power to secure the rights and interests in Korea and to expand trade areas in Korea. Financial supports functioned as a precondition to the above activities. The final result was the colonialization of Korea after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, before Korea became a Japanese colony in 1910, a variety of industrial technologies from the U.S., Britain, China, and Japan were introduced into Korea, such as the railroad, tramcar, electricity, telegraphy, weapon, medical treatment, etc. Also, the introduction of the western banking system was closely related to the colonialization process in Korea. Financial penetration by Japan was expanded into the Korean inland since the Pusan branch of Daiichi Bank had been established in 1878, which stimulated the Korean government and elite people had no choice but to establish banks independently to protect the Korean financial system. There was nothing more that Korean people could do against Japan’s expansion of trade and business area with prompt remittance and low-interest loans from Japanese banks like Daiichi Bank. Korean people began to think that traditional finance and usury in Korea should be improved, and the scarcity of financial institutions made them establish actively western style of banks  like Daiichi Bank. The enforcement of tax payments in cash through the Gabo Reform (甲午改革) of 1894 promoted a commodity money economy which had been expanded since the late Chosun dynasty. Both external shocks and internal necessity made Korean people show an aggressive attitude toward the establishment of banks and modernization in finance. 

However, it was so difficult for Korean people to establish monetary and financial systems independently because of Japan’s colonialization of Korea; therefore, Hansung Bank started out again as a by-product of the colonialization process of Korea. Since then, Hansung Bank came to experience dependent development under Daiichi Bank’s supervision and guidance, and the process of dependent development itself was the introduction process and the settlement process of western banking system in Korea. Details of these situations will be examined thoroughly in this paper.

2016 BHC Meeting Kris Alexanderson Imperial Businesses and the Interwar Struggle for Empire: Reflections from the Dutch Maritime World

During the two decades after World War I, Dutch shipping companies and the colonial government collaborated in global policing and surveillance projects in an attempt to control their transoceanic empire and maintain imperial hegemony beyond the colony’s terrestrial borders.  This paper reveals how shipping businesses were vital not only to the economic and logistic prosperity of Dutch empire, but also for protecting it against both foreign and indigenous socio-cultural threats to Dutch authority.  Interwar Dutch shipping companies have largely escaped critical analyses over the ways colonial culture influenced their business decisions, but this paper shows the same fears and paranoia felt by colonial administrators during the 1920s and 30s were shared by European multinational corporations.  Working from numerous Dutch shipping company archives, this paper supplements our extensive knowledge of the British Empire with a previously unexplored and unique component of twentieth-century imperial business history.

2016 BHC Meeting Orville R Butler Reinterpreting the Washing Machine Industry in Nineteenth Cetury America

Historians have traditionallyportrayed washing machines as a late nineteenth century phenomenon when industrialized factories like Blackstone, Manufacturing and Benbow Brammer began large scale production of washing machines after around in the mid to late 1870s.  According to this history the washing machine industry took off in the early twentieth century with the development of electrical power washing machines. Prior to this late nineteenth century development according to this history cothes were washed on rocks, or scrubbed on a scrubboard.

Surveys of about 50,000 newspaper pages from 1790 to 1900 and searches for washing machine and clothes washer in the Library of Congress newspaper archive, newspaper archive.com and GeneologyBank.com show that an active washing machine industry existed in America as early as 1800.  That during the nineteenth century more than 850 people/companies manufactured washing machines and that washing machines played crucial roles in American life blamed by southerners as one factor causing the Civil War, offered by many of the same southerners as a solution to the servant problem after the war, and as a solution to the Chinese question in the west.  Washing machines or rather washing machine patent right scams between 1870 and 1900 were blamed by many as a substantial factor in the farm debt crisis.

By 1810 washing machine manufacturers had settled on their major advertising points and marketing practices that would serve them through the 19th century.  Between 1800 and 1850 washing machines received more than 300 patents and more than 52 manufacturers, a few manufacturing between 10,000 and 50,000 a year.  The War appears to have halted washing machine manufacturing in the South for the duration but only slowed in in the North where the focus of manufacturing moved to California.  After the War Washing machines were temporrily seen as a way to control former slave washer women but preferably machines of Southern manufacture. Still by 1890 southern manufacture appears to have largely disappeared while Northern and Western manufacture boomed.  At least 350 washing machine manufacturers have been documented for at least brief periods between 1870 and 1900.  More claimed to produce selling instead patent rights to produce for which significant numbers of farmers were duped into mortgaging their farms to purchase the right to manufature and sell washing machines.  This paper summerizes the development of an industry that thrived throughout the nineteenth century.

2016 BHC Meeting Rolv Petter Amdam Reinterpretation of the role of business schools in the formation of the professional manager: The birth of executive education at Harvard Business School

In a Chandlerian perspective the managerial revolution drove the rise of the business schools in the US, and business schools contributed back by graduating professional managers. Before World War II, the effect of the MBA degree was, however, modest. At Harvard Business School, the MBA program’s modest impact on top executives’ formation created great concern. In order to increase this impact, and fulfill their obligation to complete the transformation that later was named managerial revolution, the business school began in the mid-1920s to develop non-degree programs for top or potential top executives. By drawing on experiences from some short-lived programs and the extra-ordinary situation during the war when the school was transformed to a military academy in business, Harvard Business School in 1945 launched their Advanced Management Program that soon became a global role model for executive education.

Since historical studies of business education has focused on business schools as degree-granting institutions, the historical role of non-degree executive education has been neglected. The paper is based on intensive research of HBS’s archives.

2016 BHC Meeting Steven Bank, Brian Cheffins, and Harwell Wells Executive Compensation: What Worked?

CEO pay is a controversial issue in America—but there was a time, often overlooked today, when chief executives were not paid nearly as much as they are now.  From 1940 to the mid-1970s executive pay was modest by today’s standards even though U.S. business was generally thriving.  What worked to keep executive pay in check?  Economist Thomas Piketty and others credit high marginal income tax rates, leading to calls for a return to a similar tax regime.  This paper casts doubt on the impact tax had and also shows that neither the configuration of boards nor shareholder activism played a significant role in constraining executive pay.  It emphasizes instead the roles played by strong unions, a different and more circumscribed market for managerial talent, and social norms, explanations that do not easily lend themselves to generating modern policy prescriptions

2016 BHC Meeting Ann-Kristin Bergquist and Mattias Nasman Safe Before Green. Environmental strategies in Volvo Car Corporation and the importance of the U.S. market, 1970s-1990s.

During the year as the first United Nations Conference on the environment was held in Stockholm 1972, the Swedish automobile manufacturer Volvo adopted 'environmental care' as a third core value in their business operations, alongside 'quality' and 'safety'. This paper examines the incorporation of environmental concerns into business strategies in the Volvo Car Corporation since the 1970s. Our study shows that Volvo in the 1970s took the technological world leadership to control exhaust emissions from cars. This is explained by the stringent legislation adopted first in California and later in the U.S., which was Volvo's key export market. However, we also find that Volvo's green proactive strategy was temporary. 'Safety' rather than 'environmental care' was viewed as a competitive advantage, which made the Volvo cars big and therefore fuel intensive. In contrast to previous studies that have stressed the role of national institutions in shaping environmental strategies in the automobile industry, our study concludes that regulations and consumer preferences on the key export market played a bigger role than Swedish institutions in the Volvo case.

2016 BHC Meeting Mark Billings and John Wilson Ferranti and the Pre-history of Privatization, 1979-80

Controversies about privatization have re-entered British politics in recent years.  In this paper we examine a neglected case in the early history of privatization in the UK: the 1980 disposal of the controlling interest in Ferranti held by the National Enterprise Board, a state holding company.  Ferranti, a large, long-established and family-controlled British electronics company with a distinctive management tradition, had fallen under government control after a cash crisis in 1974-75, but new management turned the company around.  In 1980 the stake was distributed widely to institutional shareholders, a method very deliberately intended to reconcile numerous interests.  A sale to a single bidder could have realized significantly higher proceeds, but at the price of antagonizing management and employees, and with the potential for higher costs in defense procurement and serious political damage from job losses.  The disposal came very early in Margaret Thatcher’s administration before it had accumulated significant experience of privatization.  We argue that this case offers significant insights into the development of privatization policy and practice and the state’s wider role in British business.  The involvement of some of Britain’s most controversial post-World War Two politicians adds a strong ideological dimension.

2016 BHC Meeting Michele Blagg N M Rothschild & Sons: The Royal Mint Refinery, a golden opportunity

This paper outlines a number of strategies Rothschild employed in order to gain, maximize and maintain its control over the London bullion trade. Seizing the opportunity to lease the refinery at the Royal Mint from the Exchequer in 1852 was an important step as Rothschild moved outside its normal sphere of banking, to less familiar industrial sector. Operating the refinery immediately put much of the new Australian and California gold production at the disposal of the merchant bank, later securing them a good share of early South African gold. During this period the London bullion market adopted a more formal structure, over which Rothschild assumed an administrative control.  Strengthened by its operation of the refinery, and later its role as Chair of the London gold fixing, Rothschild secured its relationship to bullion, which continued into the twenty-first century.

2016 BHC Meeting Raul Bringas-Nostti A Forgotten Pioneer in the Pacific Rim Trade: Mexico’s Efforts to ‘Open’ Japan, 1876-1910

In 1876, General Porfirio Diaz took power in Mexico. His military coup was financed by American investors, who saw in him an era of stability and business-friendly policies. For 35 years he ruled Mexico with violence and had impressive economic achievements. His efforts to attract investments and promote free trade reached Japan. Mexico became one of the first “western” countries to have formal relations with the Asian nation. Diaz expected to forge a strong business and political alliance. In 1888, Mexico and Japan signed a trade and navigation treaty, which gave Mexicans extraordinary advantages not available to other countries. Even the San Francisco Chronicle declared that Europe and the United States had to follow the Mexican example. When Diaz gave green light for a Japanese naval base at Magdalena Bay, Baja California, the United States demanded Mexico to be less friendly with Japan. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 overthrew Diaz. With the fall of his regime, the strange and audacious relationship between Mexico and Japan fell into oblivion. 

2016 BHC Meeting Tom Buckley Weighting the Scale: Store Size and the Performance of Retail Organisations in the United States and Britain, 1950-1973

The productivity of retail organisations is influenced by factors at the firm and store level. This paper concentrates on the store level. It does so by examining the relationship between physical store size and the productivity of retail firms operating a chain of stores selling principally clothing merchandise, during the golden age of productivity growth between 1950 and 1973. Using store level accounts collected from the corporate archives of a retail firm operating in the United States, J.C. Penney, and a retail firm operating in the United Kingdom, Marks and Spencer, in four benchmark years, this paper seeks to answer the question, ‘what has been the effect, historically, of physical store size on the productivity of retail firms?’ The conclusion presented in this paper is that the relationship between store size and productivity is significant, but that it is a relationship conditioned by characteristics of the local market.

Keywords: Retail Organisations, J.C. Penney, Marks and Spencer, Productivity.


2016 BHC Meeting Henderson Carter Resisting Hegemony: Black Entrepreneurship in Colonial Barbados, 1900 -1966

The paper discusses the issue of race/ class hegemony which confronted the Black entrepreneurs in Barbados in the period 1900 to 1966. It examines how the Black entrepreneurs made their mark on the business landscape and provides a reinterpretation of earlier positions on the “rise” of Black entrepreneurs.  It argues that the emergence of Black businesses was not simply a case of “rise”, but in several ways can be considered as resistance to the race/class hegemony of the planter-merchant class. That resistance, as in the case of the radical Workingmen’s Association of the 1920s, was illustrated by d explicit statements of intent to make inroads into sectors controlled by the upper classes. At times, as in the case of some enterprises, subtle statements or signs on the front of their businesses were indicative of the intent of the Black entrepreneurs. In other cases, it involved a rejection of the assumptions held by the elite class about the place of the black workers in the society. That rejection led to the encroachment of Black-owned businesses on sectors dominated by the planter-merchant class, without necessarily securing their displacement.  

2016 BHC Meeting Shannan Clark Media without Advertising? Reinterpreting the History of the Advertising-Based Business Model in the Modern United States: Two Cases from the 1940s

            Although advertising has long been the lifeblood of the mass media, the emergence of new Internet-based digital media forms over the last several decades has undermined the advertising-based business model that sustained most media enterprises in the United States since the late-nineteenth century.  As advertising revenues for most contemporary media enterprises have diminished relative to the past earnings of legacy media, and more firms look to subscriptions and user fees for their sustenance, it is worth reconsidering earlier experiments to establish advertising-free media within America’s culture of consumer capitalism. 

            This presentation will examine two innovative print media enterprises founded in 1940 –the New York daily tabloid newspaper PM and the weekly news dispatch In Fact– that broke with the prevailing reliance on advertising.  In an era when most periodicals depended on advertising for two-thirds of their revenue, both PM and In Fact eschewed advertising as a corrupting influence, and sought to subsist entirely on what readers were willing to pay for content.  Largely because of operating issues specific to the early postwar period, PM ceased publication in 1948 and In Fact folded two years later.  Nonetheless, these case studies demonstrate the alternatives that existed to the advertising-based model for American media during the mid-twentieth century, and they offer a useable past for today’s disruptive media entrepreneurs.

2016 BHC Meeting Peter Conti-Brown The New Institutional Synthesis: Rules and Organizations in Institutional History

It can be said that definitional imprecision leads to theoretical confusion, and nowhere more plainly than in institutional history, where two key terms—institutions and organizations—are used by many historians as essentially synonymous. Meanwhile, new institutional economists who delve deeply into economic history see the concepts as terms of art: institutions are the “rules of the game” or “equilibria” whereas organizations are agents that seek to optimize scarce resources and otherwise operate within their institutional constraints.

In this essay, I argue that a new institutional history represents a challenge to both definitional approaches. Without doing so explicitly, a new generation of institutional historians have profitably explored institutions as both organizations and rules, neither too closely wedded with a single organizational entity nor lost in the long and slow change of the rules over millennia. Historians have begun to see how formal and informal rules that govern politics, society, and the economy change through organizations in both short bursts and over long horizons. The key insight is that this new institutional history can build a theoretically robust methodology that can take its place among the other historiographic subdisciplines, whether business, political, economic, cultural, social, legal, or intellectual history. 

2016 BHC Meeting Benjamin Davison The Chicken of Tomorrow: Bioengineering and Agriculture in Postwar America

In the decades following the Second World War, big business redesigned the food system to better suit the needs of mass-retailing. The emergence of the supermarket as the primary means of food distribution challenged farmers to deliver agricultural products in sufficient quantities to satisfy consumer demand. Rather than simply grow more, farmers, processors, and scientists partnered to engineer crops for greater efficiency and profit. This essay focuses on the poultry industry because chickens saw more intensive bioengineering than any major agricultural product. Thanks to the national Chicken of Tomorrow contest, held in 1950, federal and private poured into poultry research, creating a bird that embodied the full promise of the emerging science of genetics. Eventually, the industry created a chicken that not only fed consumers, but organized poultry production according to the logic of mass-marketing.  

2016 BHC Meeting Jeffer Daykin The Adoption—and Adaptation—of the International Exposition Form by Japan and China in the Long Nineteenth Century

This paper examines the transference of the “international exposition” form from Europe, where it is commonly understood as emerging with the 1851 London ‘Crystal Palace’ Exhibition, and the United States to Japan and China.   Like all transferred technologies, its reception and domestication is of particular interest for what it reveals about the practical value of the technology and its component parts, the specificity of the transferring and receiving cultures, and the wider context of international cooperation and competition.  Through tracing the evolution of international exposition configuration, a clear trend is identified and found reflected in Japan’s and China’s national expositions.  By further examining components of the exposition form that directly relate to the exhibition of technology such as the structure and organization of exhibition halls, rules and regulations governing exhibitors, and jury award systems, we can see how the tension between educative and commercial functions of expositions were ultimately resolved in favor of the host-locale’s primary interest.  More developed nations in the West came to arrange such features primarily toward commercial concerns while late-developing nations such as Japan and China capitalized on the exhibition of technology to promote domestic innovation and technology transfer.

2016 BHC Meeting Austin Dean The Shanghai Mint and Monetary Standards in Nationalist China, 1920-1933

This paper uses the history of the Shanghai Mint as a lens to examine the financial history of China in the 1920s and early 1930s. In particular, it explores debates about monetary standards that took place in this period: whether China should adopt the gold-exchange standard as well as whether and how to eliminate the tael, a ghost unit of account. The Shanghai Mint was an important part of these debates. The paper argues that the story of the mint shows continuities in the goals of successive Chinese governments to exercise greater control over the monetary system and that carrying out these goals came at the expense of native banks, qianzhuang.   

2016 BHC Meeting Nathan Delaney “Rethinking the Role of the Speculator: The Copper Trade and the London Metal Exchange before 1900”


2016 BHC Meeting Gerardo Con Diaz The Gospel of Software Patenting

This talk argues that patent law played a crucial role in the transformation of software into a commodity in the late 1960s. It contends that software firms started to consider selling their programs because their programmers began to believe in what I call the “gospel of software patenting.” By this, I mean the expectation that patent law would enable them to sell their programs without the need to rely on the nondisclosure agreements that they normally incorporated into their leasing contracts. Advancing this gospel among academic and corporate programmers was a patent lawyer named Morton Jacobs, who would later become the first lawyer to a secure software patent for a software firm. At the gospel’s core was a simple promise: by selling a program, a firm was not necessarily relinquishing its intellectual property rights over it.