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

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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.

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