BizHizCol Webinar: Textiles in business history (double feature)

13/04/2021 16.00 UK

Register here

Presenters: Muwei Chen (Beijing Foreign Studies University) and Alka Raman  (London School of Economics)
Chair: Ashton Merck (Duke University)

A Collective Approach to Pollution Treatment of small firms led by Trade Association: the Kyoto black dyeing industry in the 1970s

Muwei Chen (Beijing Foreign Studies University)

The problem of pollution is a typical example of an external diseconomy that takes an important position in the relationship between the environment and private firms. Private firms incline to prioritize economic profit over environmental protection, thus, relying on firms’ initiatives to treat pollution seems impracticable. Especially for small firms, which are financially and technically less capable.

Japan has encouraged small and medium sized firms to deal with pollution collectively since the 1970s, since SMEs had generated a large amount of pollution. However, previous studies have rarely uncovered how the collective approach had been undertaken. What kind of barriers did the small firms meet? How did they solve them? Why did the small firms choose one solution over another?

This study aims to address these gaps by exploring how small firms collectively dealt with pollution under the leadership of trade associations. This study examines the case of a local industry specializing in black dyeing in Kyoto and its surrounding areas. The group of small dyeing firms, mostly with an average of 10 employees, have successfully solved their wastewater pollution in a decade. This is largely attributable to the collective attempts initiated by the Kyoto Kurozome Industrial Cooperative Association.

This case study reflected the situation of small firms in the 1970s when social and governmental pressure on pollution treatment was increasing drastically while legislation and regulations on pollution were still in formation. The misalignment between private and public interests was affected by the change of regulation, recognition, and technological availability. As a result, the small firms were gradually grouped into the leaders of the association, the pioneers, the late movers, and the outsiders. The trade association had to uniform the different interests of the small firms in order to achieve the collective approach to pollution treatment.

On the other hand, this case study also has its specialties that may further our understanding of the possibilities and restrictions of this trade association-led collective approach. These may include the supportive Kyoto prefectural government, the interdependence of stakeholders on the supply chain due to the social division of labor, and the industrial crises emerged since 1976.

The conclusions are as follows. First, the collective attempts compensated for the risk that the relatively loose regulation environment for SMEs could lead to reduced motivation to treat pollution. Second, the association constructed a regulative and normative environment to facilitate peer supervision based on horizontal inter-firm relationship. Third, the negotiation included diverse stakeholders, nevertheless, the failure to adopt the new dyeing method was attributed to the influence from the supply chain that preferred economic profit in the short run.

From imitation to industrialisation: Evolution of cloth quality in the British cotton industry, 1740-1820

Alka Raman (London School of Economics)

The introduction of Indian printed and painted cotton textiles into Britain in the late seventeenth century led to immediate imitations of these goods by British manufacturers. Did the process of imitation of these foreign benchmark products lead to the adoption of a specific trajectory of technological growth within the British cotton industry? This paper contributes to a topic central to interpretations of British industrialisation, pathways to technological change, and eventually innovations, using qualitative empirical material analysis. It highlights material knowledge transfer in the absence of codified means of knowledge exchange and identifies imitation as a key channel for innovation and technological change. Textual evidence from contemporary entrepreneurs, merchants, manufacturers as well as observers of the British cotton industry indicates that manufacturers in the early British cotton industry were concerned about cloth quality vis-à-vis Indian cottons and that there was a shift towards improvements in cloth quality, especially for the making of the cotton warp yarn. These texts suggest the hypothesis that there was a shift towards finer cotton textiles in Britain, via attempts to make the cotton warp yarn match Indian quality. With a novel dataset of surviving British and Indian textiles of the period, the paper puts this hypothesis to test and concludes that between 1746 and 1850, there was an increase in the quality of British cottons leading to a convergence with the quality of handmade Indian cottons. Extant literature mentions learning from pre-existing products but what this learning entailed and whether imitation of benchmark products stimulated technological innovations are questions that have remained unexplored. While British industrialisation has been studied from a variety of viewpoints, the impact of pre-existing goods, whose replication by machinery effectively constitutes the shift towards industrialisation, is a perspective previously ignored. This paper shows how competitive ambition amongst British manufactures to produce goods that rivalled Indian cottons steered the trajectory of mechanical innovations in the British cotton industry. Using empirical microscopic analysis of the historical material textile sources, I demonstrate that technological change in the British cotton industry was guided by the quest to match the cloth quality of handmade Indian cottons.

BizHisCol Webinar: Freedom from the New World: The invention of beet sugar

06/04/2021 16.00 UK

Register here

Presenter: David Singerman (University of Virginia)
Chair: Manuel A. Bautista-González (Columbia University in the City of New York)

In contrast to the centuries-deep agricultural origins of sugarcane, the idea of sugar from beets and other vegetables emerged of German laboratory scientists around 1800. The economic history of sugar in the nineteenth century is generally told as a war between these two industries, culminating in the near-bankruptcy of some European states that subsidized their domestic beet producers. In this chapter, I show that the idea of beet sugar was not a scientific discovery but rather a radical invention. For Enlightenment philosophes, practical chemists, merchants, and producers, sugar was something that came from the cane. Not until the middle of the century did new forces within chemistry itself, allied to certain political and economic agendas, persuade publics that the crystals extracted from beets were not just a substitute for cane sugar but in fact the same substance.

BHC Roundtable: Making Sense of Digital Sources

Thursday 11th, March @ 10:00-11:00 (EST)/15:00-16:00 (GMT)

Prof Stephanie Decker, University Of Bristol
Prof David Kirsch, University Of Maryland
Dr Santhilata Kuppili Venkata, The National Archives
Dr Adam Nix, De Montfort University

Dr Gavin Benke, Boston University
Dr Jessica Ogden, University of Bristol
Dr Tim Hannigan, University of Alberta
Prof Douglas Oard, University of Maryland

BHC’s virtual meeting starts tomorrow and, among the many interesting sessions, the Contextualizing Email Achieves team will be hosting an inter-disciplinary roundtable on digital sources. The session requires no prior experience of digital methods or digital sources and will be of particular interest to anyone researching contemporary historical periods or those keen to know more about working with digital traces of the past.

Here’s the full abstract:

The more business and organisational historians focus on the events of the late twentieth century and beyond, the more they are finding traces of the past that were created digitally. Despite the increasing relevance of emails, webpages and other born-digital material, there has been little reflection on how scholars should deal with them methodologically.

The goal of the roundtable is to explore the challenges that arise at the intersection of different disciplines as they attempt to make sense of digital sources. It brings together scholars from different disciplines who have explored the many ways in which digital sources can be used and are being used. Several are early career researchers (ECRs) themselves (Drs Hannigan, Nix, Ogden) and the topic is of particular relevance to ECRs as they are perhaps more likely to engage with new types of sources and new methods in order to make their mark as scholars.

The underlying rationale is as follows: Sources and methods for business historians have expanded in recent years as more and increasingly heterogeneous artefacts are being generated. On the one hand, these developments have led to a flowering of new types of inputs for historians writing about business such as digitized newspapers and remotely accessible archival collections. Combined with complex search tools that allow scholars to filter ever larger and more diverse sets of historical materials, business historians are now able to make new and different kinds of knowledge claims.

However, taking advantage of these opportunities can require research tools which are outside the skill set of any single researcher, historian or otherwise. Therefore, business historians may need to look outside the boundaries of the field for productive, knowledge-generating partnerships. Hence we have focused on bringing an interdisciplinary group of scholars together, which is of particular relevance to ECRs as research trends and funders increasingly focus on the ability to engage in interdisciplinary conversations.

For more details and to see the rest of BHC’s exciting sessions, view the full programme here.

BHC Mentoring for Emerging Scholars

This year, the Business History Conference will be held virtually for the first time.  

This new format presents us with both challenges and opportunities.  The Emerging Scholars Committee usually runs networking events, such as a drinks reception and a breakfast.  While we will miss seeing all of you in person this year, we hope to maintain some of these traditions in the new virtual format and to continue to provide a supportive space to network and meet other scholars.

We are launching a new mentoring scheme, which will provide participants at the virtual BHC with a valuable opportunity to gain advice and insight from more advanced scholars in the field on everything from completing a dissertation to finding research funding, navigating the academic job market to exploring possibilities for business historians beyond the academy. 

If you would like to participate, please contact Victoria Barnes <>

We aim to begin the process of introducing mentors with mentees on the 17th February.

With best wishes,

Grace Ballor, Victoria Barnes, Jessica Burch, Valeria Giacomin, Sven Kube and Andrew McGee

The Emerging Scholar Committee

Bauhaus digital archive

For those of you interested in archives available online, the Bauhaus Archive has made its digital archive available here:

There are also a digital history resources available for those interested in the history of the school, which celebrated its centenary in 2019, though the original website has now be changed to and does not feature quite as much useful historical detail anymore – but hopefully this will come back as they develop the site!

Organizational Memory Studies – Perspectives piece & EGOS track

Posted on behalf of Dr Hamid Foroughi:

Dear colleagues,

I hope you are keeping well in these unsettling times. 
I just thought our recent Organization Studies perspective piece- Organizational Memory Studies– might be of interest to you. In this article, Diego Coraiola, Jukka Rintamaki, Sebastian Mena, Bill Foster and I provide an overview of the developments in the filed in the last decade or so. See the link to the article below.

Bill Foster, Sebastian Mena and I are also organizing an EGOS sub-theme- to take this conversation further.
Sub-theme 49: Organizational Memory Studies: Toward an Inclusive Research Agenda
We would be of course delighted to see any contribution from yourself or your coauthors to our subtheme.
We appreciate if you also share this to other colleagues of yours who might be interested in this.

An extraordinary story for your Christmas break

As we are getting very close to a well-deserved winter break, I wanted to share an extraordinary story with you about how historical research uncovered the life and family history of one woman’s immortal cells. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cells reproduced in laboratories when no others would. They have become the basis of many medical innovations, and have also played a role in medical research into the current pandemic.

However, until a few years ago, neither Lacks nor her descendants knew about her crucial role, as her cells were harvested without her consent. Despite her enormous significance for medical research, some members of her family struggled to get health insurance, as one interviewee pointed out. Her family learned about the both sad and significant medical history of their ancestor when a historian researching the history of Lacks’ cells contacted them. The BBC’s short video highlights the aftermath of the discovery of her amazing cells, her untimely death from cancer, her family’s discovery of her long legacy and their current engagement with medical research facilitated by their ancestor. It is an important story well worth watching over the holidays.

AOM MH community blog

AOM submission dates move ever closer (14 January 2021 5pm EST). In case you were not aware that the Management History track at AOM now runs a blog with news and updates, you should visit this website and subscribe!

The PDW call for submissions can be found here:

The call for the scholarly programme is here:

Survey for the FT50 list

Dear colleagues

As you may be aware, the FT50 list of journals is currently requesting feedback from the community about which journals to include in the new iteration of the list. There is currently no history journal on the list, and as a survey of published articles, which we did a few years ago, highlighted, about 65% of our authors are in Schools of Business, Management, or Accounting, Finance and Economics (Decker et al., 2018), making Business History the key journal for historical contributions to management and business research. Since 2013 our two-year impact factor has increased from 0.56 to over 1, and CiteScore to over 2. This is at the top end of history and business history journal impact factors, and comparable to elite journals in the discipline such as Past & Present (IF 0.831) or Economic History Review (IF 1.1). Submissions to Business History have steadily increased over the last few years and we now receive about 200 manuscripts per year. Our downloads were 64,538 in 2017, 79.371 in 2018, over 122,000 in 2019 and over 82,000 by July 2020. We believe this illustrates the progress we have made in the last few years, with your support, in what is a field with many dedicated journals, on which we hope to build in the future. If you would like to support this, please you spare a minute and fill out this survey (  for the FT50 list of journals and suggest Business History as a journal to include.

Thank you for your continued support of the journal and wider business history community.

Happy holidays and all the best for the new year!

Neil Rollings & Stephanie Decker
Editors-in-Chief of Business History

Decker, S., Stokes, R., Colli, A., de Jong, A., Fernandez Perez, P., & Rollings, N. (2018). Change of referencing style. Business History, 60(1), 1–3.