Message from the BAM MBH Track

British Academy of Management 

Management and Business History Track 

Track Chairs 

  • James Fowler, University of Essex 
  • Roy Edwards, University of Southampton 

Track description: 

This track encourages the growing number of management and business historians who work in business schools and social science departments to engage in constructive debate with a wide range of management scholars. The 2022 conference theme, ‘Reimagining business and management as a force for good’ offers ample opportunity to explore the value of historical study for current management. 

In this track we specialize in chronologically or longitudinally motivated research. Histories of organizations, industries and institutions give us the opportunity to understand how managers have dealt with reinventing themselves in the past. History is replete with makeovers. We would welcome papers that explore how businesses and managers have responded to the requirement to change themselves, change the narrative about themselves, or both. How did this happen, and how successful was it? History allows us to both challenge and develop theory by exploring its explanatory power in relation to real events where the outcomes are already known. 

We welcome papers, symposia or workshop proposals either using new and innovative methodologies or applying archival methodology to a new disciplinary context. We are also interested in context specific papers using more traditional historical methodology but which take innovative approaches to relate their findings to wider social science concerns including the diversity of experience in present day businesses, regions and communities. While the main conference theme ought to feature prominently in all submissions, we encourage cross-disciplinary papers and workshop submissions that link different Tracks. 

As a group we are inherently multi-disciplinary and believe in the application of theory to historical analysis, and there is no single epistemology for approaching this. We aim to encourage theoretically orientated social science history with a clear relationship to present day debates in the management discipline. Contributions might focus on, but are not limited to: the economic or social history of business, historical case studies for theory 

building, theoretical contributions on the relevance of history to management studies, the uses of history, and history as a method for management studies. Please note though that while we are open-minded, work without a historical dimension will not be accepted. 

This article is a useful initial point of reference: 

Tennent, K. (2020). Management and business history – a reflexive research agenda for the 2020s. Journal of Management History. 

These articles offer commentary on the ‘dual integrity’ of business history methods as a combination of social science and historical craft: 

Decker, S., Usidken, B., Engwall, L. & Rowlinson, M. (2018). Special issue introduction: Historical research on institutional change. Business History, 60(5). pp613-627. 

Maclean, M., Harvey, C. and Clegg, S.R., (2016). Conceptualizing historical organization studies. Academy of Management Review, 41(4), pp.609-632. DOI: 10.5465/amr.2014.0133 

Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J. & Decker, S. (2014). Research Strategies for Organisational History: A Dialogue between Historical Theory and Organisation Theory. Academy of Management Review, 39(3), pp250–274. DOI: 

Some theoretical and empirical examples of the genre of work that we seek to welcome include: 

Fowler, J., & Gillett, A. (2021) Making a hybrid out of a crisis: historical contingency and the institutional logics of London’s public transport monopoly, Journal of Management History, ahead-of-print. 

Gandy, A., & Edwards, R. (2017). Enterprise logic vs product logic: the development of GE’s computer product line, Business History, 59(3), pp431-452. DOI: 

Gillett, A. & Tennent, K. (2018). Shadow hybridity and the institutional logic of professional sport: Perpetuating a sporting business in times of rapid social and economic change. Journal of Management History, 24(2), pp.228-259. DOI: 

Hamilton, S. (2016). Revisiting the History of Agribusiness, Business History Review, 90(3), pp541-545. DOI: 

Hollow, M. (2014) ‘Strategic Inertia, Financial Fragility and Organizational Failure: The Case of the Birkbeck Bank, 1870–1911’, Business History, 56(5), pp. 746–64. DOI: 

Lane, J. (2019) Secrets for Sale? Innovation and the Nature of Knowledge in an Early Industrial District: The Potteries, 1750–1851, Enterprise and Society, 20(4), pp861-906. DOI: 

Maclean, M., Shaw, G., Harvey, C. and Booth, A., (2020). Management learning in historical perspective: Rediscovering Rowntree and the British interwar management movement. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 19(1), pp.1-20. 

Mollan, S. & Tennent, K. (2015). International taxation and corporate strategy: evidence from British overseas business, circa 1900–1965. Business History, 57(7), pp.1054-1081. DOI: 

Tennent, K., Gillett, A. and Foster, W., 2020. Developing historical consciousness in management learners. Management Learning, 51(1), pp.73-88. 

Research seminar by the Organizational Memory Studies community

Please see below the details for a research seminar by Andrea Casey and Sonia Coman.

Title: New directions in organizational and management history: interdisciplinary perspectives on the field

Date: January 28, 2022

Time: 13:00 GMT/8:00 EST/6:00 MST/5:00 PST

See the link below on our RG page:

In case not on RG,

Funded PhD positions

PhD positions: Coventry University, UK, and Erasmus University, Rotterdam, invite applications for two, fully-funded PhD positions (one at each university). The successful applicants will join a team of historians working on Historical Tensions between International Business and National Taxation – a four-year project commencing in Spring 2022.

 Historical Tensions between International Business and National Taxation: A Challenge for Europe Today 

A team of business historians from the University of Bayreuth (Germany), Erasmus University (Rotterdam), Charles University (Prague), and Coventry University (UK), are being funded by the VolkswagenStiftung for a project that aims to analyse the historical dynamic of the conflict of interest in relation to taxation between nation states and multi-national enterprise (MNE). The historical cases examined in the project aim to reveal the complexity of multi-layered interaction between states and MNE, and the long historical path-dependence of MNE and their global network of specialists. 

Coventry University and Erasmus University are now inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for fully-funded PhD studentships – one to be held at each university – to join the team in May 2022 and start work on the project. The successful candidates will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills. In addition, the studentships include funding and support for participation, together with the project’s other PhD students, in various European PhD education programmes, such as summer schools and courses. 

The Coventry University PhD project comprises a case study of BP in the course of the twentieth century. Against a background of international ideological ruptures (First World War, 1930s Great Depression, Second World War, de-colonisation, the coming of the Iron Curtain and fall of the Berlin Wall), the CU project will also focus on the nationalisation policies of the postwar Labour government, and the progressive privatization of BP from 1979 under Thatcher. 

For further details please contact Professor Neil Forbes n.forbes[at] 

The Erasmus University PhD project comprises a case study of the Anglo-Dutch Unilever since the merger in 1930. Against a background of major international ruptures (1930s Great Depression, Second World War, de-colonisation, the coming of the Iron Curtain and fall of the Berlin Wall) this project will focus on Unilever’s connections to other multinational companies in the UK and the Netherlands and particularly its relations with the Dutch and British governments. Command of the Dutch and English languages is a precondition. 

For further details please contact Professor Ben Wubs wubs[at] 

Northumbria BH Group Seminar Series returns

Welcome back everyone, it is 2022, and who knows what the new year will bring us – normality? more variants? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, Northumbria University’s Business History Group is hosting another event in their seminar series on Teams. If you’d like to join, please contact Dr Ian Jones [ ian.g.jones [at]].

Business History Group Seminar Series (2021-22) 

Wednesday 19th January 2022, 15.00 – 16.00 

MS Teams 

Medical Risks vs. Financial Rewards: Corporate Social Responsibility in the Global Asbestos Trade, 1930-1977 

Dr Jessica van Horssen, Leeds Beckett University.  

The history of Corporate Social Responsibility is subject of growing interest for business historians. The research of environmental and business historians as William Cronon and Pierre Desrochers have shown that the decisions of industry leaders have both immediate and long-term local and global effects. With this paper, I will examine the process of decision-making regarding occupational health within the Canadian asbestos trade and show how the corporate social responsibility practiced by industry heads at the local level had much wider effects, including the continuing belief in the safety of asbestos, and the demonization of competitors along racial and political lines. 

Picture supplied by Northumbria Business History Group & Dr van Horssen.

Industry leaders knew asbestos was dangerous as early as 1924, but rather than inspire corporate caution, this knowledge was spun to maximize profits while delaying the widespread communication of the risks associated with the mineral. The American Johns-Manville Company was instrumental in this process, as it owned the largest chrysotile asbestos mine in the world, in the town of Asbestos, Canada, and was responsible for turning a potential corporate disaster into an advantage with the “ABC defence.” The “ABC” in this plan referred to “anything but chrysotile,” the particular type of asbestos found in Canada, meaning that asbestos was indeed dangerous, but only when it came from the competition: asbestos from southern Africa was blue, rather than the Canadian white, and therefore branded much more toxic, and asbestos from the Soviet Union, although still white, was tainted communist red at the height of the Cold War, and thus something to be avoided. 

The decision to champion Canadian asbestos over its competition on the grounds of safety obscured the industrial and public understanding of the risks associated with the mineral. It also allowed companies like Johns-Manville to manipulate medical evidence to prove their claims correct, and meant that French-Canadian workers in communities like Asbestos, were treated as laboratory mice, monitored and harvested so companies could better understand the progression of disease. 

This paper will explore this history while asking questions about corporate social responsibility in single-resource communities and global resource trades. In doing so, I will address key themes in Business History within a transnational context. I will also contribute to the dialogue on decision makers and decision making, while addressing key themes of power, complacency, and control. 

Jessica van Horssen is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. Her research focuses on the history of environmental health in North America and the wider world, highlighting the connections between modernity and toxicity in bodies of land, human bodies and the body politic. Van Horssen’s first book, A Town Called Asbestos: Environmental Contamination, Health and Resilience in a Resources Community (University of British Columbia Press) was published in 2016 and her work has been published in Urban History, Labour/Le Travail, and the Economic History Yearbook. Van Horssen has also worked to raise awareness of contemporary environmental issues, sailing around the UK in 2017 as part of the eXXpedition Round Britain to test coastal waters for plastics contamination, and organising a time travel experience at the Edinburgh Fringe to encourage the public to historicise current pollution levels.