History's Guiding Light

Nataliya Langburd Wright

Nataliya Langburd Wright

Job Title

Doctoral Student, Strategy Unit
The HBS Business History Initiative taught me to take history not as a static repository of information, but rather as a fluid set of perspectives that may enrich understanding of phenomena of today.

Having worked on the issues of the hour at the White House and the World Bank, I was keen to step back and understand the evolution and impact of business on society as I embarked on my journey at HBS. The role of companies in shaping and being shaped by economic contexts around the world fascinated me; it inspired me to pursue my doctoral studies and delve into business scholarship.

The HBS Business History Initiative provided me both the historical tools and the space to explore. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take the Business History Doctoral Seminar on the Great Divergence led by Professor Geoffrey Jones. This seminar provided me with a foundation on the role of business in advanced and emerging countries’ economic trajectories, from Medici Italy to China and India in today’s global context, as well as direct exposure to experts in the field. It also enriched my understanding of technology/digital issues in the global economy. Despite the perceived “newness” of the field, I became captivated by the abundance of historical analogs to the important global technology trends we are seeing today.

The Creating Emerging Markets (CEM) project, consisting of interviews with entrepreneurs and business leaders from across emerging markets, was a goldmine. It allowed me to explore questions on emerging market business issues from the eyes of those on the ground. CEM also provided me fruitful ground to experiment with analytical and educational approaches, including text mining, as well as video-based cases in collaboration with HBS faculty Geoffrey Jones and Tarun Khanna.

The HBS Business History Initiative taught me to take history not as a static repository of information, but rather as a fluid set of perspectives that may enrich understanding of phenomena of today. History is an essential mechanism to transform data points into intelligible guidance.