Business History

Tutor: Chris McKenna

MBA / Executive MBA elective, Said Business School

This paper will blend historical with managerial analysis to understand the process of institutional evolution from the Eighteenth through the Twenty-First Centuries around the world. Using Oxford as the lens to understand global business history, most of the class sessions will take us outside of the Said Business School in the museums, libraries, and colleges of Oxford. The course is aimed at non-historians who want to understand better why history matters in the modern world, how institutional change occurred, and how entrepreneurs profited from fundamental changes to the world economy. It is also, unusually, a chance to understand how business school teaching operates since the participants will write their own case study and describe how they would teach that case in a class which they might run.

Learning Outcomes for the Course

This paper will probe the evolution of modern management in the United States, Europe and Asia over the past three centuries. The first part of the course will examine how the structure of big business emerged in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan during the second industrial revolution. We will consider the traditional explanation offered by business historian Alfred Chandler, alternate explanations offered by other leading business historians, and the work of economists, sociologists, and management theorists on industrial evolution. In doing this, students should come to understand the historical development of “varieties of capitalism” around the globe by the middle of the twentieth century. In the second half of the course, we will examine the important role of banks and financiers in the organization of the industrial economy, globalization as a historical phenomena in the transmission of commercial products and fashion, the rise of new technologies during the “information” revolution, 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 should be able to use material culture, not simply documents, to contextualize economic change. They should also be able to use historical differences among industrial countries to better analyse the future of the global corporation.

Sample reading list: