Global Business History

Tutor: Chris McKenna

BA Economics and Management FHS option paper, Said Business School

This paper will blend historical with managerial analysis to understand the process of institutional evolution from the Roman era to the present-day around the world. The course is aimed at undergraduate students who want to better understand why history matters in the modern world, where and why innovators created the first modern business institutions, and how entrepreneurs were able to profit from fundamental changes to the world economy.  It is also, unusually, a chance to understand how business school teaching operates. Participants will read case studies prepared by researchers and former students affiliated to the Global History of Capitalism project. By the end of the course, participants will have written their own case study and taught their case to fellow students.

Learning Outcomes for the Course

This paper will probe the transformation and development of institutions across the world over the past two millennia. We will start by considering the work of business historians, economists, sociologists, and management theorists as they attempt to explain the development of the modern business corporation and its ancient roots. In the first half of the course, we will examine: early corporate forms; the rise of world trade and the joint-stock corporation; the long history of rivalry, exchange, and divergence between European and Asian economies; and early examples of industrialization.

In the second half of the course, we will examine the rise of mass production and automation on a global scale, the historical development of “varieties of capitalism”, the important role of banks and financiers in the organization of the industrial economy, and, finally, some lessons to be applied to the “third” (and “fourth”?) industrial revolution. Through these various topics (and the trips to museums, libraries, and colleges) students will be able to use material culture, not simply documents, to analyse and understand economic change. They will should also be able to use historical examples to better analyse the future of the global corporation.