  Chapter 

Book chapters

The book ‘’Business History; complexities and comparisons’’ will discuss concepts that are related to modern economic development, and all revolve around one of the most important actors, which is the business firm. Events such as economic recessions have made people think about firms, and how they can affect our societies and economic opportunities. Next to these thoughts, the book will also highlight the evolution of the firm, and the primary social organization in the capitalist system.

The book consists of 24 chapters, of which the first part (chapters 1-3) cover relevant issues in the history of businesses, such as theories on firms and the concept of entrepreneurship. The chapters after these (chapters 4-6) will provide further information on analysis of the evolution of business The chapters will describe the firm between the preindustrial era and the First Industrial Evolution.

Part III of the book (chapters 7-9) is going to provide insights on the birth and consolidation of big businesses. Especially the United States will be discussed, as this is the country were mass production first started to take place. Moreover, infrastructure will be discussed, as this was key in the forming of new types of production. Besides the United States, also the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy and France will be discussed.

In part IV (chapters 10-12), the state and market in the period between the two world wars are the main theme. This topic is subdivided in the three chapters, which are on the multidivisional corporation and managerial capitalism, Europe between the two wars: convergence and divergence with the United States, and the origins of the Japanese miracle: entrepreneurship, the State, and business groups.

In part V (chapters 13-18), the age of ‘’shrinking space’’ will be discussed through various chapters. The third Industrial Revolution will be discussed in chapter 13, followed by the examination of what happened to business during the 1950s and 1980s in chapters 14-17.

The in part VI (chapters 19-24), which is the last part of this book, the globalization of today will be discussed. This part covers topics such as multinationals, new forms of enterprises, the roaring 1990s, slowing down in Europe and Japan and new protagonists, China and India.


Throughout the book, the reader will gain knowledge on the following issues:

  • Micro and Macro developments: Throughout the history of business it has become evident that there is a strong relationship between these two types of developments. This relationship has become clear when one provides context, and also because the main character is a large enterprise that often dominates the industrial sector.

  • Industrial revolutions: An industrial revolution is a transition in terms of technological paradigms, which is determined by aspects such as technical skills, scientific knowledge, forms of energy, and capital intensity.

  • Entrepeneurs and Managers: We look at entrepreneurs as people that are innovative, are risk-taking, manage to grab opportunities and, most importantly, make decisions at the highest level within the company. The best entrepreneurs are the ones that manage to synchronize the firm’s activities with the form of Industrial Revolution in which they are involved. Managers on the other hand, are individuals that have developed firm-specific, functional know-how through the acquirement of theoretical and practical experience. They are usually assigned to a department within the company over which they have autonomy.

  • Markets: Markets are determined by for example the size of a population per capita income. Usually we are concerned with national markets, however, sometimes we are also looking at international markets.

  • Cultures: Culture is the attitude of a nation towards economic activity and economic change. To know the differences in culture helps us to understand certain developments, e.g. the First Industrial Revolution.

  • State: The state is a very important body in this book, as most of the times it is served as a guarantor of the legal framework. Sometimes, the state can also be a supplier of physical and intangible infrastructures.

  • Forms of enterprise: Enterprises are shaped by their general design, their size, their strategies and by their interrelationships. A very important part of an organisation is the relationship that the operating units and the headquarters have. What is important to clarify is the way that enterprises have worked in specific historical settings, and to recognize that inside each international economic system there is a community of companies that is operative.

  • Varieties of capitalism: Varieties of capitalism are the intersections between the economy and its institutions. There is not really one type of capitalism that is superior to others.

  • Change and how it is unforeseeable: Something that we have learned from looking back at history is that some relative positions of nations are very volatile and that it is very difficult to make forecasts about international competition. What works for one phase does not necessarily work for the other.

  • Post-Chandlerism: Alfred Chandler was a very well-known business historian, who has written many articles and books. For one, his vision was leading, for others it was an obstacle to progress in discipline. He perceived the industrial big business as the engine of economic development. His most famous works are ‘’Strategy and Structure’’, ‘’The Invisible Hand’’ and ‘’Scale and Scope’’. Chandler believed that the essential task of van entrepreneur was to give birth to an extended managerial network.


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