GDPR & Historical Archives Workshop

Archival workshop

eabh in cooperation with the European Central Bank

23 March 2020
European Central Bank
Sonnemannstrasse 20
Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Call for papers

This workshop aims to look at the impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on historical archives, in particular, but not exclusively, in the financial sector. Since May 2018, the GDPR has set common standards of data protection within the European Union and, to a certain extent, beyond. This regulation received critical acclaim by the public and scholars alike, however, not without facing widespread criticism for the severity of the changes it requires. Without a doubt, it has been successful in getting the topic of data protection on the political agenda as well in the public and business sphere. The ever-increasing collection of digital data has required common actions to limit the usage of personal data.

To read the full call, click here

New BHC Prize: The Martha Moore Trescott Award

The Martha Moore Trescott Award (honoring Paul Uselding, Harold F. Williamson, Richard C. Overton, Alfred  D. Chandler, and Albro Martin)

The Business History Conference is delighted to announce the establishment of a new prize, The Martha Moore Trescott Award. The prize, generously funded by a bequest from the estate of the late Martha Moore Trescott, will be awarded to the best paper at the intersection of business history and the history of technology presented at the annual meeting of the Business History Conference. The award honors pioneering scholars Paul Uselding, Harold F. Williamson, Richard C. Overton, Alfred D. Chandler, and Albro Martin. Martha Moore Trescott was herself a pioneering member of the BHC and published extensively, particularly on the role of women in science and engineering, while she worked in academic administration for several universities. The prize will be for the amount of $500.

Criteria and eligibility:

The BHC will establish a prize committee of three under the terms set out in the by-laws. The prize will be awarded on the basis of the written version of a paper to be presented at the annual meeting. Those wishing to be considered for the prize must indicate so at the time of submitting their original proposal for the meeting. Self-nominating scholars must also provide the written paper to the Chair of the committee not less than one month before the annual meeting. Though the prize will be awarded on the basis of the written paper, candidates must attend the meeting and present their work. Scholars who are eligible for the Kerr Prize may also enter the Trescott Award. There are no other restrictions on eligibility.

Written papers should be no longer than 4,000 words (exclusive of notes, bibliography, appendices, figures and illustrations).

History of Management and Organizations Colloquium

25th Colloquium of the History of Management and Organizations

March 26th and 27th 2020 / Lyon
Organised by the French Association for History of Management and Organizations (AHMO) and the Institute for Education and Research in Healthcare and Social Service Organizations (IFROSS, University Jean Moulin Lyon 3), with the collaboration of the Centre for Historical Research Rhône-Alpes (LARHRA, UMR 5190) and Triangle (UMR 5206).

The Colloquium in History of Management and Organizations (JHMO) is the annual, international and interdisciplinary colloquium organised by the French Association for History of Management and Organizations (AHMO). It gathers scholars in history, management studies, sociology, economics and other
related fields, who share the historical approach of AHMO research topics: organisations, managerial thought and practice, and the field of management studies.

As in previous years, the 25th JHMO is divided in two sessions. The general session is open to any papers dealing with managerial matters using historical methods. The thematic session focuses on “paths and networks”.

General Session

The general session is open to any proposal dealing with AHMO topics (history of the field of management studies and its disciplines, history of organisations, history of managerial thought and practice), with a special interest in accounting history, which has been the foundation of the AHMO community.
Proposals should use historical methods and privilege empirical data, in every sense: archives, textual corpus, interviews, etc. The novelty and originality of the research results will be appreciated.

Thematic Session: paths and networks

The thematic session concerns all topics, issues or methods which utilise the concepts of path or network in the history of organisations and management studies. From a historical perspective, the notions of path and network are deeply linked. Every path is a movement inscribed in time and (geographical, social, economic …) space, which might be described as a network (between locations, people, interests …). Reciprocally, every network is the representation of the relations between people or objects at a given time, and those relations are the consequences of a temporal evolution.

The concepts of path and network are powerful entry points for the history of organisations and management studies. The objective of the thematic session is to bring examples of the use of the concepts of path and network together. Proposals should move beyond the metaphorical use of such concepts, either by focusing
on concrete paths or networks, or by relying on methods based on paths and networks.

a) Taken as concrete historic objects, paths and networks concern every historical period and a variety of topics, such as:

  • banking and financial networks;
  • trade networks (see the study of French merchant networks in the 18th century by Pierre Gervais, Yannick Lemarchand and Cheryl S. McWatters1);
  • colonial networks;
  • professional networks and corps;
  • consumers networks; and
  • family, clan, and diaspora networks.

This list is non-exhaustive and we welcome proposals on any topic related to paths and networks.

b) Paths and networks are also central concepts in quantitative methods which developed in disciplines such as sociology, demography or geography since the 1970s. Despite the adoption by history, and notably economic history, of long-run statistical series throughout the 20th century, the discipline has remained relatively closed to such methods. Nonetheless, in 2008 Claire Lemercier and Claire Zalc underscored the interest of quantitative approaches in their “taking particularly into account the phenomenon of networks and paths that has been put on the agenda of historical research since the 1990s”. Such methods are indeed powerful tools for description and interpretation, but also for hypothesis testing (such as deconstructing ordinary representations relayed in archives or discourses), or even as a heuristic for unveiling “definition problems easier not to mention if one sticks to qualitative methods”. The thematic session is open to any proposal using such quantitative methods for describing and analysing paths and networks in any historical period, such as:

Career paths: the concept of career is of prime importance in the history of organisations and management. Qualitative methods such as biography focus on such a concept, but quantitative methods have also developed to analyse professional trajectories. Primarily used in ancient and medieval history, prosopography has developed particularly in contemporary history for studying the élites or in sociohistorical approaches relying on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, for example for studying scholars. Other methods such as event history analysis7 are used to study careers in sociology. How might such tools be applied to the history of organisations and management?

History of organisations: the concepts of path and network can be applied equally at the organisational level, especially with social network analysis. For example, the study of interlocking directorates (which “occurs when a person affiliated with one organization sits on the board of directors of another organizations”) is now a classic approach for analysing organisations, particularly the largest US firms. It mainly developed in the field of sociology, economics and management studies, occasionally in a longitudinal perspective based on cross-section analysis, as for example on the British industry in the 20th century. From a historical perspective, this method provides first-rate material for understanding the forms of capitalism and their evolution. What insights could such methods offer to the history of organisations and management, for example on forms of governance or the evolution of strategy?

Diffusion of knowledge: social network analysis has largely spread in social sciences and humanities, notably in history. It provides quantitative tools for studying the dissemination of knowledge in scientific fields or communities (see for example the research programme proposed by Catherine Herfeld on history of economics). For instance, the analysis of co-authorship or citations network has considerably developed since the seminal works of Eugene Garfield who is one of the creators of the bibliographic database Web of Science and the rise of bibliometric analysis of citation impact.

Possibilities offered by such methods remain largely unexplored in the history of the various scientific fields dealing with organisations and managerial practices. How could the concepts of path and network, or the methods based on those concepts, be used to study the diffusion of knowledge within organisations?

This list of topics is non-exhaustive. Proposals adopting other methods based on the concepts of path and network are welcome, for instance, more qualitative approaches relying on actor-network theory.

The Joseph Colleye Prize

The first Joseph Colleye Prize in accounting history, in the amount of €1,500, will be awarded during the 25th Colloquium in the History of Management and Organizations. The call for applications for the prize is available at ahmo.hypotheses.org/2808.

Submission instructions

Proposals should be 1 to 2 pages (5,000 signs, references excluded) and include explicitly:

  • Research question;
  • Sources (archives, textual corpus, interviews, field of observation…);
  • Methods; and
  • Main results if available.

Proposals may be written in French or English. A summary in both French and English should be provided. Proposals are to be submitted to jhmo2020@univ-lyon3.fr or on the website of the conference: jhmo2020.sciencesconf.org

Important deadlines:

  • Submission of proposals: 31 October 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: 18 November 2019
  • Final version of papers (20 to 25 pages, 30 to 40,000 signs, references excluded): 2 March 2020

Proposals will follow a double-blind review process.

Presentation format

Presentations will be organised into sessions of 3 to 4 presentations depending on the topic. The oral presentation should be 20 minutes in length, and will be followed by a 20-minute discussion period. Participants should send a final version of their paper before 2 March 2020 in order to distribute papers to the other participants of their session. Oral presentations may be in French or English.

Date and location

The 25th Colloquium in History of Management and Organizations will be held on Thursday the 26th and Friday the 27th of March 2020, in Lyon. The morning of Thursday the 26th will be dedicated to the doctoral workshop. The colloquium will begin on Tuesday the 26th at 14h00 and end on Friday the 27th at 16h00.

Contact

Email: jhmo2020@univ-lyon3.fr / Website: jhmo2020.sciencesconf.org

AAHANZBS Conference “Institutions and change”

The Association of Academic Historians in Australian and New Zealand Business Schools (AAHANZBS) 11th Annual Conference, 7-8 November 2019, AUT Business School, Auckland, New Zealand

Call for Papers

The Business and Labour History Group (B&LHG) of the Work Research Institute, AUT University Business School, New Zealand, will be hosting the 11th Annual Conference of AAHANZBS on 7-8 November 2019.

You are invited to submit papers addressing the conference theme, including papers relating to accounting history, business history, economic history, labour history, management history, marketing history, tourism history, transport history and other areas of interest relating to historical research in business schools. We also invite papers / panel suggestions around teaching and pedagogy relating to business and labour history.

We welcome papers from researchers outside business schools who have an interest in these fields of study.

Both abstracts and full papers may be submitted for review. Abstracts will be published, and full papers delivered at the conference potentially be reviewed for possible inclusion in journal special issues (details tbc.)

Please submit either a 1000 word abstract or a 6,000 word maximum paper for refereeing by 2 August 2019 to Simon Mowatt at simon.mowatt@aut.ac.nz

The abstract will provide:
(i) A summary of the argument of the paper
(ii) A summary of the findings of the paper
(iii) A selected list of references for the paper

Papers should follow the Labour History style guide – http://asslh.org.au/journal/style-guide/. All authors of the abstracts will be notified by 30 August 2019 at the latest whether their abstracts or papers have been accepted for the conference. Registration and other details will be circulated shortly.

AOM PDW – Stigma research

Developing Stigma Research: Exploring How Our “Lenses” Affect Our Research

https://my.aom.org/program2019/SessionDetails.aspx?sid=10944

Building on our previous PDWs, this PDW aims to help researchers to develop their research projects about stigma and identify opportunities for research. Particularly, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of stigma’s role in influencing identities, organizations, professions, and fields.

Overall, this PDW consists of three components:

-(1) an introduction that defines the topic and provides an overview of recent work.

-(2) Thematic roundtables, each facilitated by 2-3 well-known scholars, which will also focus upon “challenges” that researchers are experiencing in positioning, conceptualizing, and publishing their work. Roundtables will last 60 minutes and have a maximum of 6 participants per table.

-Finally, there will be (3) a panel in which prominent experts, Bryant Hudson, Glen Kreiner, and Paul Tracey, will present their reflections on how their theoretical lenses shape their topics, methods, and findings on stigmatized actors. The organizers will then facilitate a discussion on how our lenses and empirical choices as researchers shape, or should shape, our research, before opening the discussion to the group.

You need to pre-register for this PDW. Please contact the workshop organizers at aomstigma@gmail.com to obtain the approval code. To pre-register you need to submit a 1-2 page document with an abstract of a project and a challenge statement that outlines the issue that you would like to discuss at your roundtable. The deadline to register online is August 2, 2019.

Christian Hampel
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy

Imperial College Business School
South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK

Entrepreneurship and History PDW at the AOM

We are excited to announce a PDW on Entrepreneurship and History on Friday, Aug 9 2019 12:00PM – 2:00PM at Boston Marriott Copley Place in Grand Ballroom Salon IJK.

History and entrepreneurship are intertwined in multiple, fundamental ways. Recent scholarship–including a forthcoming special issue of SEJ on historical approaches to entrepreneurship research–has established this connection across a range of topics, modes of inquiry, and as a means for contribution to theory. The purpose of the PDW is to open a door for increased interdisciplinary work on entrepreneurship and history.

Here we draw attention to two critical questions requiring additional exploration at the intersection of entrepreneurship and history. First, what constitutes rigorous historical explanation in the context of entrepreneurship? And second, what is the relationship between history and ongoing entrepreneurial processes?

To facilitate a collective discussion of these two topics, we bring together leading scholars from a variety of traditions ranging from economics to cultural history and from the history of technological innovation to historical cognition to help stimulate a dialogue with workshop attendees regarding these two critical questions at the intersection between the historiographic tradition and modern social-science-based entrepreneurial studies.

The PDW culminates in an activity in which attendees generate and refine research questions and ideas and receive feedback from renowned entrepreneurship scholars and historians of entrepreneurship. I am especially excited about the PDW given the calibre and depth of experience of the facilitators which include:

David A. Kirsch, U. of Maryland
Christina Lubinski, U. of Southern California -Marshall School of Business
Rob Mitchell, Colorado State U.
Daniel Raff, The Wharton School, U. of Pennsylvania
Andrew D A Smith, U. of Liverpool
Daniel Wadhwani, U. of the Pacific
Ricardo Zozimo, Lancaster U.

I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks in Boston!

Trevor

——————————
Trevor Israelsen
University of Victoria
PhD Student
——————————

EGOS 2019


I grew up in Cambridge, which isn’t exactly a dump, but even so, Edinburgh’s lovely, isn’t it? I think it’s probably the scale that does it. There are just streets and streets of the stuff: beautiful buildings, intriguing curiosities, well stocked pubs…the weather isn’t even that bad at this time of year. If you’ve not already guessed, the 35th EGOS Colloquium was held in Edinburgh last week and, in addition to the very pleasant location, it was well stocked with plenty of history-related content.

Billed under the theme of Enlightening the Future, the conference organisers juxtaposed the enlightenment heritage of their host city with the ‘post-trust’ age, which society appears to be increasingly embracing. Along these lines, they asked how ‘political shifts, technological advancements, forms of interaction, and focus on personal interests may be re-framing the ways in which decisions are made in organisations.’ It was on these terms that the former-chancellor, Alistair Darling, opened the conference. He reflected on the financial crisis, the then Labour government’s response and the path that the UK and the rest of the world has followed subsequently. His message to the delegates was that political, and not economic issues have been the key impediment economic prosperity since the crisis.

Following the opening ceremony, the colloquium proper began, offering plenty for the historically-inclined organisational scholar. Sub-theme 48 set out to understand the historical forces underlying recent crises, introducing ‘historical-evolutionary organisation studies’ to theorise the link between backward-looking historical perspectives and forward-looking development. Additionally, there was a sub-plenary on Historic Turns: Objective, Rhetorical, and Retrospective, which saw speaker Candace Jones, Kate Kenny and Michael Rowlinson discuss importance of socio-historic context in understanding and interpreting organisations. Of course, the problem with such a packed programme, was the inevitable clashes that it created. As it was, I was enrolled on Sub-theme 30Realising the Potential of Historical Organisation Studies, and it was here that I spent the majority of time over the next few days.

Introducing the sub-theme, conveners Stewart Clegg, Mairi Maclean, Roy Suddaby, and Charles Harvey expressed the rise of historical organisation studies as being part of a wave, with exciting developments and momentum coming at express pace. What was needed now, they argued, was for us to compound the sense of community that had developed and lay the foundations for the field’s coherence and continued growth. Moreover, while history and organisation studies had been expressed through the linking of two separate worlds, it was time to bring them together in practice. With that, a sub-theme programme was chosen that moved away from ‘separate world’ theorising, instead undertaking the ‘getting down and doing’ of historical organisation studies.

The first day saw parallel streams in theory, institutional entrepreneurship, and rhetorical history. Gabrielle Durepos kicked off proceedings in the theory session with a presentation of work done with Russ Vince on reflexivity in historical organisation studies. Their focus here was on the under-appreciated importance of emotion in relation to historical actors, using the example of corporatisation of higher education. The institutional entrepreneurship session followed with papers on legitimacy acquisition in relation to Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone (Baig and Godley) and the strategic use of aesthetic innovation and its impact on the wider market (Eisenman and Simons). These were followed with a presentation by Mairi Maclean on the link between Hilton’s international expansion and US post-war foreign policy (with Harvey and Suddaby). It was interesting here to hear about how Conrad Hilton deployed rhetoric in framing unknown variables in manner that represented them as relative certainties.

Following enjoyable parties hosted by Bath, CBS and others, the next morning was opened with a second session of rhetorical history, and one on institutions. Attending the latter, I heard stimulating presentations on the legacy of the fraternal ‘golden age’ in compounding the normativity of racial divides, as well the use of ‘crux’ classification within the Bordeaux wine region. While diverse in topic, both papers showed well the value an historical perspective can bring to understanding institutions in their contested and changing form. In addition to work Stephanie Decker and myself presented on digital history, the next session saw papers on the use of corporate archives for since-making by managers (Andrew Smith) and the potential of critical discourse analysis in linking the sociological and the historical (Huber, Bernardi and Iordanou). Before a second round of sub-plenaries, there were also sessions of memory and politics, dealing in turn with the pasts impact on parliamentary and political structures and the role memory plays in wider social life.

The final morning was initiated with papers on processes and boundaries, and entrepreneurship, before a final set of sessions on businesses interface with the public sector and the organisation of religion. Given it was both a Saturday morning and there had been much parting the evening before, it was great to see so many delegates engaging fully in these final sessions of the conference. Indeed, despite the intellectual fatigue that can set in towards the end such events, these sessions stimulated some of the most interesting discussions of the three days. It is testament to both the effort and execution of the organisers that the sub-theme generated such excellent feedback and discussion, and I know that presenters and audiences alike found it a thoroughly valuable experience. Mairi, Stewart, Roy and Charles should be congratulated along with EGOS for putting on a fine event, and must be thanked for all their efforts in bringing it to fruition.

Are you attending an event relevant to business or organisational history this summer? We’re always looking for volunteers to write reports for the network. We would particularly love to hear from anyone interested in providing content for the upcoming AoM and EBHA conferences. For further enquiries, please contact Adam Nix (adam.nix@dmu.ac.uk).

Radical business

For those not socialised into its norms and traditions, Oxford’s exam season can make for a somewhat bewildering spectacle. As it was for me when I arrived in the city last Thursday to find the practice of ‘trashing’ in full swing outside my hotel. Looking on with bemusement, I was told that it had historically involved the barraging of gown-clad undergraduates with eggs, flower, and even fish entrails as they left their last exams. Though officially now banned by the University, a more sanitised version is still widely practiced today, with shaving foam, confetti and other mostly harmless ordnance the worst one can expect. Standing there, it occurred to me that the modernised persistence of this nineteen-century tradition had more than a passing relevance to the symposium I had come to attend. However, I was already pushing my luck and, not wanting to become collateral, I manoeuvred around some particularly dramatic casualties and retreated into my hotel.

The next morning, the students had gone, and I headed to the Bodleian’s Weston Library in glorious midsummer conditions to register for the Radical Business Symposium. Generously funded by RBC Foundation and the Bodleian’s Centre for the Study of the Book, the Symposium’s agenda set out a day focused on the contestation and evolution of social norms over time, particularly in the context of businesses and their relationship to wider society. As the organiser, David Smith, noted to me afterwards “the event featured different disciplines exploring how business and culture change each other — often in surprising ways. During a time when business is increasingly expected to lead or respond to cultural issues, this area of research is especially timely.”

The first session, embedding and transforming social norms, was kicked off by Heidi Tworek, who discussed the role German news agencies played distributing political rhetoric throughout their international networks. Focusing particularly on Alfred Hugenberg’s Telegraph Union, it was fascinating to hear how a blend of political and commercial aims ultimately contributed the media mogul losing control of his empire, when the Nazi party he’d worked to install subsumed national media activities. Following this, David Smith gave a paper on CSR and its links to Christian ethics, highlighting the efforts of Howard Bowen in promoting levels of professional ‘best practice’ before more neoliberal agendas stripped CSR of its normative basis. The session was rounded off with a report by Pegram Harrison on the contestation of purpose faced by museums. Here, he showed how the leaders of such institutions must increasingly manage a ‘trilemma’ of cultural, commercial and community responsibilities in order to meet their brief.

Pegram Harrison

After a coffee break, the next session focused on the relationship between business and national interests, starting with a paper by Aled Davies on UK ‘invisible exports’. His work here showed how the presence of particular skills and capabilities helped promote London’s rise to global financial power, complementing the UK’s already well-established industrial presence. Following this, Neil Forbes gave an analysis of how BP’s commercial interests co-existed with the national interests of the UK, ultimately illustrating well how taxation policy does not have to conflict with business. To round off the morning, James Hollis then showed how the offshore economy owes its origins to the blockade and later reparations imposed on Germany during the First World War. Here, a network of underground commercial links between Germany and neutral nations provided an important solution to sanctions during the war itself and flags of convenience mitigated the liability of owning German registered ships in its aftermath.

James Hollis

The afternoon session on corruption and stigma was kicked off by Stephanie Decker and myself, discussing some of our work on Enron and the California energy crisis. Following this, Lola Wilhelm gave a fascinating account of Nestle’s initial efforts to create a baby food market in Africa, showing how its reputation was originally that of a progressive, post-natal medical champion, rather than the later toxic links relating to this aspect of its past. Will Pettigrew finished the session by showing how corporations of the early modern period managed issues of fraud, focusing particularly on the agency problems European businesses encountered during their overseas interests. He pointed out here that, rather than instilling the European institutions upon in the East, adaptive policy changes were driven by more commercial experience in overseas, which was disseminated back into Europe.

Changing organisational norms occupied the final session of the day, and Anne Murphy started with a paper elaborating the Bank of England’s efforts to self-reform, acting before external parties moved to bring their house in order for them. Following this, Michael Weatherburn showed the value historical consultancy represents to business and government, presenting as an example his recent work analysing social and economic forecasting. Finally, Alan Morrison provided a thought-provoking paper on the movement of investment banks from relational to technocratic trading, presenting the concept of ‘braiding’ to explain the somewhat problematic coexistence of trust-based and contract-based norms in the balancing of customers and firm interests.

Concluding the symposium, David Vines drew upon several of the day’s presentations to illustrate how the changing nature of social norms was influenced by the repeated games played by individuals during their day-to-day lives. In addition to noting how norms change expectations over time, he highlighted the inverse relationship, where expectations represent a self-fulling prophesy for normative change. Following the session papers, the symposium members retired for drinks, which concluded a most successful and thought-provoking day. For this, thanks must go to colloquium organisers for arranging such a stimulating and well managed event. 

Are you attending an event relevant to business or organisational history this summer? We’re always looking for volunteers to write reports for the network. We would particularly love to hear from anyone interested in providing content for the upcoming AoM and EBHA conferences. For further enquiries, please contact Adam Nix (adam.nix@dmu.ac.uk).

Workshop on the history of investment diplomacy

On Monday, 24 June, Lauge Poulsen (University College London) and Jason Yackee (University of Wisonsin) hosted an interdisciplinary workshop at Goodenough College focusing on the intersection between history, international law, and international political economy. The day started with a joint paper by Marcelo Bucheli and Stephanie Decker (i.e. me) comparing historical cases of expropriation in Latin America and Africa in the twentieth century.

We continued with Jason Yackee’s paper on French Investor Protection in Congo-Brazzaville during the Cold War, which demonstrated that political solutions to reconciling host and home country interest with investor interests after expropriations were sometimes effective (if slow), even in relatively complex cases such as the sugar industry.

After a morning focusing on historical cases of expropriation, the afternoon opened with an empirically rich paper on the role of US American interventions in Latin America in the early twentieth century, when the US took over customs houses in a number of South American countries, starting with the Dominican Republic. As a tool to engender peace, stability and better revenue collection, the outcomes were perhaps more mixed than what the US politicians and investors expected. While countries became less likely to experience violent conflict and regime change, trade did not increase and fiscal revenues actually declined.

The workshop concluded with Geoffrey Gertz’s (Brookings Institute) planned book on how the US diplomats learned to love commercial diplomacy after decades of considering it lowly and uninteresting work. However, whether this focus on supporting US business interests abroad will continue to be central to US American foreign policy is in question now, due to the high number of vacancies in the State Department in addition to funding cuts under the Trump administration, which has led to a hollowing out of capacity.

The workshop was a great example of how interdisciplinary and international research connects past and present issues in the international political economy.

Unlocking Archives – Unilever Historical Archives

Yesterday, Unilever kindly hosted (with additional support from the University of Liverpool) a workshop showcasing the amazing material that can be found within business archives. It was a really great day to learn more about how different researchers are using the collections and the great work by archivist who make all of this accessible to the public.

Keynote by Valerie Johnson, Director of Research, The National Archives

Business archives – a bit of a passion killer?

Valerie Johnson opened her keynote by highlighting that business archives are often seen as dull and uninteresting – to the point she was once told by a conference organizers that he had not expected her research talk about business archives to be so interesting. Nothing could not be further from the truth. For almost any subject of interest to researchers, business archives have materials, as companies were often spearheading new developments (e.g. technology), were embedded in social and cultural trends of the day (e.g. the culture of imperialism), design history (e.g. in the Board of Trade archives) to name but a few.

In a whistle stop tour through a wide range of archives, Johnson illustrated the history of women at work through an architectural map in the ING Barings Archive, and the representations of empire in the textiles archive of John Lewis, and the United Africa Company trademarks at Unilever Historical Archives.

To get a better sense of what Unilever Historical Archives do, see their
Instagram site: https://www.instagram.com/unileverarchives/

Johnson closed by reiterating that business records offer magnificent materials and insights into society, technology and attitudes of the past, not just the records of business operations in the narrow sense. So she closed with highlighting the importance of:

Putting the passion back into business archives!

Snippets from archival research

The day continued with wide-ranging research presentations. The morning opened with Jeanette Strickland introducing the audience to William Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers (one half of the original Unilever), a formidable businessmen and somewhat of a micro-manager.

This was followed by Frank Thorpe, University of Liverpool, talking about advertising and beyond. His presentation is based on his doctoral thesis that investigates the changing attitudes towards personal hygiene, or “BO”, and how
products like deodorant were gendered and stigmatized at times. At Unilever, he
has researched uncatalogued material, but also used a range of online newspaper
archives to understand the context within which these adverts appeared.

Ronnie Hughes offered a different view on Port Sunlight, the location of the Unilever factory and archives, where the workshop took place, by asking a key question:

What must it have been like to live in someone else’s utopia 100 years after they died?

Walking through Port Sunlight village in the morning before the workshop, this is not unlike the question we asked ourselves – would we actually like to live here,
as beautiful as it is? As a heritage site, it has a very distinct and unique
feel, which is unlike other neighbourhoods. Hughes highlights that he has asked
communities questions about what their perfect place would look like before
starting this research project. He blogs at A Sense of Place.

Prof Matt Reed finished the morning session by outlining his search for the ‘origin story’ of the collaboration between Unilever and the University of Liverpool, which dates back to 1906, which was “multi-faceted and sporadic.”
Lever donated money to a number of departments, including Civic Design and town planning. The Department of Industrial Chemistry was particularly well aligned with Lever’s business interests. Reed finished with a reflection of the value
of searching archives versus the self-taught googling that passes for research
outside of archives.

A fascinating tour of the archives at lunchtime that featured highlights such as Marmite pants.

The afternoon sessions kicked off with Dr Rory Miller’s exploration of why David Fieldhouse’s Unilever Overseas is missing a chapter on Latin America – apparently he fell out with his research assistant. 25 years ago, Miller first visited the Unilever archives to find out what was actually available on Unilever’s business in Argentina and beyond. Perusing the directors’ visiting reports, he outlined how Argentinians rarely bought Lifebuoy soap other than to wash their dogs.

In her talk about the design process, Dr Lee Wright highlighted the potential importance of archives for the design practice and the sourcing of design ideas. In her teaching, students reference the past through images they source from Pinterest, highlighting the significance of social media sites in mediating our visual understanding of the past.

The day closed with two fascinating talks, the first by Prof Iain Jackson about the development of urban architecture in Accra, Ghana in the mid-twentieth century. While the National Archives had more material on the European settlements of Accra, within other archives, such as the United Africa Company collection at Unilever, mercantile areas such as Jamestown are much better documented. Some of his collected images are available in an online book available via issuu.com (search “Accra”) here.

The workshop closed with Claire Tunstall describing their mission and how the archives has to serve many different stakeholders: internal divisions, brands and communications, outreach with schools, partnership with museums and universities and, of course, the Port Sunlight Village Trust, as well as researchers.

Hopefully, more such events, at Unilever or other major archives, will take place in the future. The workshop did not just have great presentations but also offered great opportunities to meet a wide variety of people interested in using and promoting archives.

Conference programme

10 am Registration Tea & coffee  
10.20 Welcome, introductory remarks and housekeeping
– Claire Tunstall and Jeannette Strickland    
10.30 Keynote Dr Valerie Johnson, Director of Research & Collections, The National Archives “What’s the use? Your research and business archives”
10.50 Q&A    
11.00 Refreshments    
11.15-12.30 Session 1 Chair: Prof Stephanie Decker, Aston University
11.15 Jeannette Strickland, Department of History, University of Liverpool, “Finding William Lever, the man behind the myth”
11.30 Frank Thorpe, Department of History, University of Liverpool, “Beyond the ad: filling gaps and finding new gaps”
11.45 Ronnie Hughes, Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology, University of Liverpool, “Looking for Utopia”
12.00 Dr Matt Reed, Strategy Director, Materials Innovation Factory, University of Liverpool, “Turn every page”
12.15 Q&A    
12.30-2.00 Lunch
Tours of Unilever Archives available at 12.45 and 1.10                                                    
2.00-3.00 Session 2 – Chair: Dr Valerie Johnson, The National Archives
2.10 Dr Rory Miller, formerly Reader in the Management School, University of Liverpool, “The Missing Chapter in David Fieldhouse’s Unilever Overseas: Unilever’s Expansion in Latin America in the Mid-Twentieth Century”
2.30 Dr Lee Wright, Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Design, Liverpool School of Art and Design, Liverpool John Moores University, “The value of archives and their potential to impact current design practice”
2.50 Q&A    
3.05 Refreshments    
3.20-4.20 Session 3 – Chair: Jeannette Strickland, University of Liverpool
3.20 Prof Iain Jackson, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, “Traders, speculators, taste makers: the United Africa Company in Ghana”
3.40 Claire Tunstall, Head of Art, Archives & Records Management, Unilever plc, “The research potential of Unilever Archives”
4.00 Q&A  
4.20 Summing up and closing remarks  
4.30 Optional post-workshop drink at the Bridge Inn in Port Sunlight