Business History Review

The Business History Review is a scholarly journal that seeks to publish articles with rigorous primary research that address major topics of debate, offer comparative perspectives, and contribute to the broadening of the subject. The journal is primarily concerned with the history of entrepreneurs, firms, and business systems, and with the subjects of innovation, globalization, and regulation. It also covers articles on the relation of businesses to the environment and to political regimes. The Business History Review is published in the spring, summer, autumn, and winter by Cambridge University Press for Harvard Business School.

The Business History Review also bestows two awards. The Henrietta Larson Article Award is given annually to the best article published in the journal for each volume year, as determined by a vote of the Editorial Advisory Board. The 2013 winner was “Patent Alchemy: The Market for Technology in U.S. History,” by Naomi R. Lamoreaux, Kenneth L. Sokoloff, and Dhanoos Sutthiphisal. The Alfred and Fay Chandler book award is given once every three years to the best work in the field of business history published in the United States, as determined by a vote of the Editorial Advisory Board. The 2010-2012 winner was Michael Miller's Europe and the Maritime World: A Twentieth-Century History.

  • Business History Review: Special Issue on Business, Networks, and the State in India 88 (Spring 2014): 9-42

“Trading Firms in Colonial India”

by Tirthankar Roy

The aim of this article is to develop a general narrative of the firms that led the growth of trade in nineteenth-century India, and thus to supply a missing piece in modern Indian business history. The trading firms had several features in common with trading firms globally, especially, a high degree of mobility, institutional adaptation, and occasionally, diversification into banking and manufacturing. But certain aspects of the process were specific to the regions where they operated, such as differences between the ports and the interior trading orders, between cities, and between expatriate and indigenous firms. The article reconsiders these features. Read Full Article

  • Business History Review: Special Issue on Corporate Reputation 87 (Winter 2013): 627-642

“Corporate Reputation Roundtable”

Essays by Edward J. Balleisen, Christy Ford Chapin, Sally Clarke, Ron Harris, Jonathan M. Karpoff, and Jonathan Macey

The Editors asked authors to recall instances, drawn from their research, when problems of reputation had significant consequences. The following short essays highlight moments of reputational crisis, or evolution, for mail order houses, automobile companies, investment banks, high-tech companies, health-care providers, and more. Read Full Article

  • Business History Review: A Special Issue on Corporate Reputation 87 (Winter 2013): 655-677

“Mediating Reputation: Credit Reporting Systems in American History”

by Kenneth Lipartito

Examining the development of credit reporting in the United States, this article shows how new, formal methods of assessment of risk and trustworthiness came to mediate business reputations in the credit market over the past century and a half. It focuses on the conflicts over reputation provoked by the new means of assessment and how those conflicts were controlled through organizational procedures and routines as new methodologies were introduced. After World War II seemingly objective quantitative methodologies for evaluating credit worthiness were developed, but they did not eliminate the place of reputation in business decision-making. Read Full Article

  • Business History Review 87 (Autumn 2013): 407-429

“The Australian Bank Crashes of the 1890s Revisited”

by David Tolmie Merrett

In the early 1890s, financial crises occurred in many countries, most of which were connected to international capital flows. Australia, a major importer of capital, had difficulty borrowing after the Baring crisis of 1890. This article argues that local factors shaped the consequences of the banking crash in early 1893. A fortuitous legislative change averted a calamity by allowing for reconstruction rather than liquidation of banks, economic activity was depressed as banks became more conservative lenders, and the reconstructions reduced the wealth of domestic bank creditors and shareholders. The article concludes by noting that there was no targeted policy response in the short or medium term to prevent a recurrence of such an event. Read Full Article

  • Business History Review 87 (Summer 2013): 203-228

“Siemens and the Business of Medicine in Japan, 1900–1945”

by Pierre-Yves Donzé

This article focuses on the involvement of Siemens in the market for radiology equipment in Japan between 1900 and 1945. It explores why the German multinational company was unable to keep its dominant position in the Japanese market in the interwar years despite its technological competitiveness. At this time the Japanese medical market was already well structured when the country opened up to the West. In particular, it examines the firm’s strategic choices in relation to the changing economic and technological environment, highlighting the importance for foreign multinationals of working together with national trading firms involved in the distribution of drugs and products for doctors. Read Full Article

  • Business History Review: Special Issue on Markets for Innovation 87 (Spring 2013): 3-38

“Patent Alchemy: The Market for Technology in US History”

by Naomi R. Lamoreaux, Kenneth L. Sokoloff, and Dhanoos Sutthiphisal

The literature on inventors has traditionally focused on entrepreneurs who exploited their ideas in their own businesses and on researchers who worked in large firms’ R&D laboratories. For most of US history, however, it was as common for inventors to profit from their ideas by selling off or licensing the patent rights. This article traces the different ways in which inventors resolved the information problems involved in marketing their patents. We focus in particular on the patent attorneys who emerged during the last third of the nineteenth century to help inventors find buyers for their intellectual property. Read Full Article

 

Harvard Studies in Business History

Harvard Studies in Business History is a series of scholarly books published by Harvard University Press. The series dates back to 1931, with the publication of Kenneth Wiggins Porter’s John Jacob Astor, Business Man, making it the oldest in the field. The series includes books by Mira Wilkins, Alfred D. Chandler Jr., Vincent Carosso and other distinguished pioneers of business history. Among recent titles is Pamela Laird’s Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin, winner of Hagley Prize. The series editors are Walter Friedman and Geoffrey Jones.

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Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin

by Pamela Walker Laird

Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin, revisits the popular American self-made story, and exposes the social dynamics that led some people toward opportunity and steered others away. It provides new perspectives on entrepreneurial achievement and shows that business is a profoundly social process. No one can succeed alone. Winner of the Hagley Prize by the Business History Conference

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Railroads and the Making of Modern China

by Elisabeth Köll

Railroads and the Making of Modern China (forthcoming), explores the extraordinary history of Chinese railroads through different phases of political regimes -- Imperial, Nationalist, and Communist -- and their institutional, social, and economic legacies and transformation throughout the Twentieth Century.

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Gentlemen Bankers: J.P. Morgan & Co. and the World of Investment Banking, 1895-1940

by Susie J. Pak

Gentlemen Bankers: J.P. Morgan & Co. and the World of Investment Banking, 1895-1940 (2013), describes the social and economic networks of J.P. Morgan & Co., the leading American investment bank before World War II. “Gentlemen Bankers is a window into a world that, for one fleeting moment, dominated American finance. By concentrating on the nonfinancial aspects of that world Ms. Pak greatly enriches our understanding of the entire era.” (John Steel Gordon, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 30, 2013)

Critical Issues in Business History (forthcoming Spring 2015)

“Critical Issues in Business History” is a new collection of concise books that analyze major themes in the evolution of business and entrepreneurship and their impact on wealth and poverty, society, and the natural environment worldwide. They aim to offer scholars and students from many disciplines a path into the vibrant literature on the history of capitalism by providing conceptual frameworks that open areas for analysis and question. The books will examine both business processes and individual industries, and address vital issues of debate. What makes some firms and regions innovative, and others not? Why do business systems vary from country to country, and does it matter? What have been the societal costs and benefits of the “creative destruction” that has characterized modern capitalism? What role did business play in the rise of the West, and the current shift of wealth to the East? How have the decisions of business leaders affected the distribution of wealth in national, and international, economies? The series editors are Walter Friedman and Geoffrey Jones.

 

Course Development

The business historians at the School engage in extensive course development for the three major MBA electives. There are now approaching one hundred historical cases available, many accompanied by teaching notes and course overview notes. A full list of cases can be found on individual faculty publication pages. A number of them are also available in languages other than English, including Spanish and Japanese. All case and teaching notes can be purchased from Harvard Business School Press.

Octopus and the Generals: The United Fruit Co. in Guatemala

by Geoffrey Jones and Marcelo Bucheli

Examines the overthrow of President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954 in a U.S.-backed coup in support of the United Fruit Co. Over the previous half century, United Fruit had built a large vertically integrated tropical fruit business that owned large banana plantations in the “banana republics” of Central America, including Guatemala.

The Ice King

by Tom Nicholas

Provides an opportunity to examine the risk-reward tradeoff and the travails of entrepreneurial venturing in the nascent U.S. economy. Traces the origins and development of Frederic Tudor’s Ice Company, a business which developed during the 19th century to hack chunks of ice from New England freshwater ponds and transport it by ship for sale around the globe.

The Dojima Rice Market and the Origins of Futures Trading

by David A. Moss and Eugene Kintge

In 1730, Japanese merchants petitioned shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune to officially authorize trade in rice futures at the Dojima Exchange, the world’s first organized (but unsanctioned) futures market.