5 - Business History in the United States at the End of the Twentieth Century  pp. 83-110


By William J. Hausman

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Business history in the United States at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first is simultaneously thriving and struggling with its identity. There are clear signs of vigor, including a rising membership in the major professional organization in the field, the Business History Conference (BHC). The membership of the organization has more than doubled to around 550 over the past decade, and interest in presenting papers at its annual meeting has intensified. There were 103 papers proposed for the 1998 annual meeting and more than 200 for the 2000 meeting. The organization recently launched a new quarterly professional journal, Enterprise & Society, the successor to its proceedings volume, Business and Economic History. A second professional organization, the Economic and Business Historical Society, established in 1974 as an offshoot of the Western Economics Association, also thrives. It has around 200 members, meets annually, and publishes a proceedings volume, Essays in Economic and Business History. But there also are some signs of stress (or excitement), including a growing debate among business historians over the future direction of the field.

Business history has grown tremendously in recent years, not only in terms of the number of scholars interested in the subject but also in academic stature. This is in no small part due to the creative work of a single individual, Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. By virtually any measure, Chandler has dominated the field over the past several decades.

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