2 - Identity and the Boundaries of Business History: An Essay on Consensus and Creativity  pp. 11-30

Identity and the Boundaries of Business History: An Essay on Consensus and Creativity

By Louis Galambos

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter

For most of its early history, business history evolved as an isolated American subdiscipline, separated by a wide gulf from the strong intellectual currents reshaping the larger discipline of history in the United States. It was not the only subdiscipline that was isolated in this way during the period between 1930 and 1960. As Charles Neu has pointed out, diplomatic history had a somewhat similar phase of insular historiographical development that did not end in the United States until the volatile 1960s. But the isolation of business history was particularly extreme. Its origins in a business school setting made it suspect to many historians, as did the ideology of its founder and the first generation of his followers. N. S. B. Gras left no doubt as to where he stood on the contributions business had made to American society (they were positive) or the damage the New Deal had done to a once vibrant U.S. political economy (it was negative). At a time when most American historians were moderate reformers aligned with the U.S. brand of modern liberalism, this style of conservatism was scorned if it was noticed at all. For the most part, it was just ignored.

In 1939, Gras published the first general synthesis in the subdiscipline, Business and Capitalism, which he modestly subtitled An Introduction to Business History.

Competitive Advantage on the Shop Floor. Cambridge, 1990
Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. Cambridge, Mass., 1990
Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge, Mass., 1997
Galambos, Louis with Jane Eliot Sewell. Networks of Innovation: Vaccine Development at Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and Mulford, 1895–1995. Cambridge, 1995
Galambos, Louis. “The U.S. Corporate Economy in the Twentieth Century.” In The Twentieth Century, edited by Stanley Engerman and Robert Gallman, 927–67. Vol. 3 of The Cambridge Economic History of the United States. Cambridge, 2000
John, Richard R. “Elaborations, Revisions, Dissents: Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.'s The Visible Hand after Twenty Years.” Business History Review 71, no. 2 (1997): 151–200
Lamoreaux, Naomi and Daniel Raff, eds. Coordination and Information: Historical Perspectives on the Organization of Enterprise. Chicago, 1995
Lazonick, William. Business Organization and the Myth of the Market Economy. New York, 1991
McCraw, Thomas K. “Introduction: The Intellectual Odyssey of Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.” In The Essential Alfred Chandler: Essays Toward a Historical Theory of Big Business, edited by Thomas K. McCraw, 1–21. Boston, 1988
McKelvey, Maureen. Evolutionary Innovations: The Business of Biotechnology. Oxford, 1996
Sabel, Charles F. and Jonathan Zeitlin. World of Possibilities: Flexibility and Mass Production in Western Industrialization. Cambridge, 1997
Sicilia, David B. “Cochran's Legacy: A Cultural Path Not Taken.” Business and Economic History 24, no. 1 (1995): 27–39
Tedlow, Richard. New and Improved: The Story of Mass Marketing in America. New York, 1990
Williamson, Oliver E. Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. New York, 1975