MHRG Annual Workshop meeting report

For those of us who missed it, Chris Corker has kindly provided us with a short report on the Management History Research Group event, which has, like many others, gone virtual this autumn:

The 2020 edition of the Management History Research Group (MHRG) Annual Workshop took place, via Zoom, on Thursday, 1st October with two panels comprising a total of five papers presented, with participants as far away as Japan and Washington DC.

Original plans for the workshop, in the pipeline since our successful 2019 workshop in Preston, had been to head to Newcastle and continue the tradition of the MHRG to host a predominantly single-track workshop with a range of papers, either developmental or fully formed, for constructive and critical feedback.

Keen to not loose this approach, the Zoom version of MHRG followed the same focus. With a total of 20 participants, the first paper from Ayumu Sugawara (Tohoku University, Japan) explored BOLSA’s encounter with Japan in the 1960s Eurodollar market, followed by Leo McCann and Simon Mollan (University of York) on Placing Camelot: Cultivating Leadership and Learning in the Kennedy Presidency, the first panel concluding with James Fowler (University of Essex) discussing The Management, Politics and Strategic Narratives of Decline and Turnaround at London Transport 1970-87.

Following a brief recess, the second panel featured Simon Mollan (University of York), Beverly Geesin (University of Dundee), and Joel Tannenbaum (Community College of Philadelphia) work titled ‘American Caesar? Authoritarian leadership and the American Right’, and concluded with Leo McCann (University of York) and John Heath (American University, Washington DC, USA) discussing ‘A Parable about Power’: Management and Leadership in Robert McNamara’s Presidency of the World Bank.

Overall, the contributions were informative and interesting for all participants, with much discussion, debate and feedback was generated for the presenters.

Like many events across academia, the MHRG Workshop had to adapt and the Zoom approach worked for everyone involved. Still small, supportive, and constructive as prior MHRG workshops have been, the change in format worked for this year.

What was missing, as it is for every postponed or adapted conference, was the sense of community among colleagues and friends who traditionally work in a multitude of places and come together in person infrequently to catch up, talk about new projects and potential collaborations, and bring into the community new members, emerging scholars, and encourage doctoral students.

The chat in a local licensed premise, the discussions over a meal, the conversation in coffee breaks and the chance to bounce an idea among participants without the formal structure of a presentation, are what is missing.

Virtual conferences and workshops may be keeping our research alive and our discipline-specific communities together, but the informal chat, the catching up with friends and talking about family, hobbies, and all the non-research stuff, the chance to see a new town or city and the opportunity to travel are understandably absent and hard to replicate with the video conferencing format.

The world of academic conferences and workshops is likely to continue in this at distance approach for the foreseeable future in light of the devastating effect the pandemic is having on the world, but in time our communities will reform in person, drinks will be consumed, ideas exchanged, enthusiasm for research reignited, and the shared love for research experienced.

It is the hope of the MHRG committee to run a face to face workshop in September 2021. We embrace management history in all its forms, and contributions from associated sub-disciplines of history. If you would like to join our mailing list for next year, or just find out some more, please get in touch with me.

Chris Corker, MHRG Chair

Chris.Corker@York.ac.uk