What Knowledge is Useful? > History
Ideas About History
In 1924, as part of a larger fundraising campaign, senior HBS professors were polled as to the potential applications of history to the HBS curriculum. Among those who responded were finance professor Arthur Stone Dewing and the ubiquitous Melvin Copeland.
Dewing suggested that the library “should, perhaps above all else, collect ephemeral pamphlets, reports, statistical data, and the like, which are destroyed as soon as the occasion which brought them into existence has passed.” In fact, Dewing and his fellow finance professors had already cast their own nets for this material, collecting annual reports, mortgage documents, committee reports, brokers’ circulars, and stock exchange listing sheets of the major railroad, industrial, and public utility corporations.
For his part, Melvin Copeland advocated “the assembling in the library of a large quantity of historical source material . . . I should like to see the library make a determined effort on a large scale to procure records and documents of various sorts that are now in the hands of individuals or corporations.” This source material was in jeopardy, Copeland argued, and “the longer we delay in seeking such records, the harder it will be to secure them.”
Business historical data, Copeland continued, could serve “as a strong attraction to men of scholarly instincts who desire to come to the Harvard Business School for advanced study.” He also hoped that it might prove feasible “to reconstruct a substantial number of cases from these old documents and reports in order that we may provide our students with a real historical perspective, and perhaps eventually include in the School’s curriculum one or more courses on business history.”