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Business history in a long-term perspective

Giovanni Favero - Ca' Foscari University

Tue & Thurs 10:00 - 12:30, Classroom: SAN SEBASTIANO 20

course description

The course aims to provide a picture of the structural evolution of firm typologies from pre-modern age to present times in the international context, bearing particular attention to continuities and break-ups in the long period.

Lessons will develop along a four-period scheme, starting from pre-industrial age, through the First and Second Industrial Revolution, up to the contemporary debate. Two lines of inquiry are privileged: a first one focuses on "exogenous" factors, such as geography, demography and technology, shifting from the urban/rural pattern of production to the link between resource allocation and technology in use, up to the use of information; a second one focuses on institutions and organization, from first merchant companies to the evolution of business form from entrepreneurial to managerial to network coordination.


Economics S-10ab or equivalent; Math S-1a or equivalent. Students must have a basic background in economics and in general history.

required readings

Course Pack: Business History in a Long-term Perspective.

recommended readings

  • A.V. Chayanov, The Theory of Peasant Economy (Manchester University Press 1986);
  • Toynbee, Lectures on The Industrial Revolution in England, Whitefish, MO, Kessinger Publishing, 2004 (1st edition 1884)
  • Marshall, The Principles of Economics, London, Macmillan, 1920 (8th edition), book 4, ch. 10.


Participation20%Students are expected to play an active role in seminars and prepare the required readings in advance
Intermediate test40%Written exam on the contents of the first half of the course.
Final paper40%Students must present a paper of 20.000 characters on the contents of the second half of the course.

policies and procedures

The contents of proposed readings will be presented in a broad context, and some specific themes will be proposed for discussion. Students' questions and observations are encouraged and will be considered in the evaluation of their participation.

office location and contact information

My office is located at San Giobbe, DSE, room 20, on the first floor. (tel. 041.234.9165)


no. 1

Tues. 26th June

Pre-industrial peasant family and putting-out system

Overview of A.V. Chayanov, The Theory of Peasant Economy (Manchester University Press 1986); F. Mendels, "Protoindustrialization: the first phase of the industrialization process", Journal of Economic History, 32 (1972), pp. 241-261.

no. 2

Thurs. 28th June

Craft guilds and innovation

S.R. Epstein, "Craft guilds, apprenticeship and technological change in preindustrial Europe", Journal of Economic History, 58 (1998), 3, pp. 684-713.

no. 3

Tues. 3rd July

The Industrial Revolution and the household economy

Overview of A. Toynbee, Lectures on The Industrial Revolution in England, Whitefish, MO, Kessinger Publishing, 2004 (1st edition 1884); J. De Vries, "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution", Journal of Economic History, 54 (1994), 2, pp. 249-270.

no. 4

Thurs. 5th July

The theory of transaction and organization costs

R. Coase, "The nature of the firm", Economica, 4 (1937), pp. 386-405.

no. 5

Tues. 10th July

The development of accounting and managerial techniques

K. Hoskin, L. Zan, A First "Discorso del Maneggio". Accounting and the Production of `Management Discourse' at the Venice Arsenal, 1580-1650, paper n. 94 presented at the 5th Conference on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting, Manchester, 7-9 July 1997 (ask teacher); R.K. Fleischman, T.N. Tyson, "Cost accounting during the Industrial Revolution: the present state of historical knowledge", Economic History Review, 46 (1993), 3, pp. 503-517.

no. 6

Thurs. 12th July

Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-century Britain

D. Aldcroft, "The entrepreneur and the British economy, 1870-1914", Economic History Review, 17 (1964), pp. 113-134; A. Marshall, The Principles of Economics, London, Macmillan, 1920 (8th edition), book 4, ch. 10.

no. 7

Tues. 17th July

The juridical form of the corporation

R.B. Ekelund, RD Tollison, "The mercantilist origins of the corporation", Bell Journal of Economics", 11 (1980), 2, pp. 715-720; N.M. Lamoreaux, "Partnership, corporations, and the theory of the firm", American Economic Review, 88 (1998), 2, pp. 66-71.

no. 8

Thurs. 19th July

Technological change: history of science and economic history

J. Mokyr, "Technological inertia in economic history", Journal of Economic History, 52 (1992), 2, pp. 325-338; N. Rosenberg, "Science, invention and economic growth", Economic Journal, 84 (1974), pp. 90-108; N. Rosenberg, "On technological expectations", Economic Journal, 86 (1976), pp. 523-535.

no. 9

Tues. 24th July

Managerial capitalism

A.D. Chandler, "Decision making and modern institutional change", Journal of Economic History, 33 (1973), 1, pp. 1-15; A.D. Chandler, "The development of large-scale economic organizations in Modern America", Journal of Economic History, 30 (1970), 1, pp. 201-217.
O.E. Williamson, "The modern corporation: origins, evolution, attributes", Journal of Economic Literature, 19 (1981), 4, pp. 1537-1568.

no. 10

Thurs. 26th July

Contemporary developments: network organization

W.W. Powell, "Neither market nor hierarchy: network forms of organization", Research in Organizational Behaviour, 12 (1990), pp. 295-336; W.H. Becker, "Finance, technology and governance: the recent 'revolution' in American corporate management", presented at Helsinki EBHA conference, 2002.

Final Exam

Description and date to be defined

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Ultima modifica: 18/06/2007 da System Administrators