Accounting Biographies collection freely available

SAGE Publications has established a new Editors’ Choice Collection for Accounting History on the theme “Accounting Biographies”. The articles in this new collection are freely available for a limited period until 30th May 2023 and are found at the following link:

This augments the prior Editors’ Choice Collection on the same topic from 2015 and will be a handy reference for authors seeking to submit on any of the upcoming Special Issues (see: or a general issue of the Journal.

There are now 22 Editors’ Choice Collections for Accounting History, with the series designed to cover key themes within the accounting history field. These are updated and refreshed from time to time. Details relating to the other Collections are available at the following link:

In order to receive journal Contents alerts, please click on the “Sign Up” button located in the “Connect with us” box on the journal home page found at:

We hope that you find the newly-added collection, as well as the previous ones, to be helpful and enjoyable reading!

Carolyn Cordery, Carolyn Fowler and Laura Maran

Editors, Accounting History

Method & Madness – New Special Issue Out!

On September 22, 2022, the BHC held its second annual mid-year meeting. The theme of the virtual event was “Method and Madness: Historical Interpretation in a New Age of Extremes.” One-hundred, twenty-six people participated, 41 percent of whom were emerging scholars and 55 percent of whom were based outside the United States. 

We are pleased to announce the publication of a collection of peer-reviewed essays based on the conference. The essays all touch of the value of play and playfulness in research methods – especially during historical moments of uncertainty and transformation. They are grouped into four themes: new sources of play, seeing anew, sensing new connections, and entertaining new representations. A list of the essays can be found below and they are all freely available until September and can be found here



Methods of Musement

Practice of playAuthorsEssay title 
IntroductionWadhwani, SorensenMethods of Musement
  New Sources for PlayKirsch, Decker, Nix, Girish Jain & Kuppili Venkata. Using Born-Digital Archives for Business History: EMCODIST and the Case of E-Mail
Zeng & TaoSocial Media as a source
BlackNoticing Material Culture
 Seeing AnewBallor, Recio & VanattaSurveillance Archive: Using Reports in Business History
VanAccount Books as Social Technologies
   Sensing New ConnectionsHisano & KubeEngaging with Experiences: The Senses as Lenses in Business History
Rinaldi, Salvaj, Pak & HalginDatabases, Network Analysis and Business History
 Villamor, Prieto-Nañez & Kirsch The Promise Of Machine-Learning- Driven Text Analysis Techniques For Historical Research: Topic Modeling And Word Embedding.
Entertaining New RepresentationsStaley & AssmusenModels, Objects and Ghosts: Visualizing History
Wilson & TilbaBusiness History and the ‘Practical Turn’

LUSTRE event: AI & born digital archives

Adam Nix and Stephanie Decker recently took part in a fascinating workshop on digital archives at the Cabinet Office in London, organized by the fantastic LUSTRE network. The overall aim of the LUSTRE project is to connect policymakers with Computer Scientists, Digital Humanists and professionals in the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums). The project is co-delivered with professionals from the Cabinet Office’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO). The recordings from the day are available here.

We talked about our recent paper in AI & Society: Finding light in dark archives: Using AI to connect context and content in email. The practice of digital archival discovery is still emerging, and the approaches future research will take when using digital sources remain unclear. Archival practice has been shaped by paper-based, pre-digital sources and guides assumptions around how researchers will access and make use of such collections. Paradoxically, dealing with the increasing relevance of born-digital records is not helped by the fact that many born-digital collections remain dark, in part while questions of how they should be effectively made available are answered. Our research takes a user perspective on discovery within born-digital archives and seeks to promote more meaningful access to born-digital archives for researchers. In doing so, our work deals with the implications that unfamiliar archival technologies (including artificial intelligence) have on disciplinary traditions in the humanities and social science, with a specific focus on historical and qualitative approaches.

Our work in this area currently focuses on the issue of context within organisational email, and the challenges of searching and interpreting large bodies of email data. We are particularly interested in how effective machine-assisted search and multiple pathways for discovery can be used to open contextually opaque collections. Such access is likely to leverage a collection’s structural and content characteristics, as well as targeted archival selection and categorisation. We ultimately suggest that by combining relatively open user-led interfaces with pre-selective material, digital archives can provide environments suited to both the translation of existing research practices and the integration of more novel opportunities for discovery. Our presentation will summarise our progress in this area and reflect on the technical and methodological questions our work here has raised.

Winter break at OHN

Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year! It’s been a busy year at OHN, and we are taking a well-deserved break until January. But just in case you might get bored in our absence, let us share a few interesting audio resources with you. I know, everyone got into podcasts like two years ago, but there is even more good stuff out now than ever before

This year, we started offering open access articles in organization history in audio formats – for our podcast, visit and see if there is anything there that interests you! So far we have had anything from AI, to methods, to whiskey and the (California) energy crisis. More to come next year, and if you have an OA article out in the field, get in touch if you would like see it as a podcast.

And in the world of podcasts, there is more that might be relevant to you – for starters, do you know about the New Books Network – Economic & Business History? Here, scholars in the field are interviewed about their new books. I did one on my new book Postcolonial Transitions and Global Business History with the wonderful Paula de la Cruz Fernandes and Prof Michael Rowlinson.

If you want to recap your organization studies classics, check out Talking about Organizations – they look at some of the classics and have a collection on historical approaches on their website.

While we are taking a break from teaching and writing, it might be a good time to consider why we are all publishing, editing, reviewing, or despairing in the academic journal market we have today. Yes, academic publishing has a business history – one that involves Rupert Murdoch (of all people) as a key innovator. It’s quite a story, and it is available as an Audio Long Read from The Guardian, or as a normal long-read article.

Enjoy the break!

New book: Postcolonial Transition and Global Business History (Routledge 2023)

Dear subscribers,

It is publication day for Prof Stephanie Decker — Postcolonial Transition and Global Business History: British Multinational Companies in Ghana and Nigeria (Routledge 2022) is out now!


British multinationals faced unprecedented challenges to their organizational legitimacy in the middle of the twentieth century as the European colonial empires were dismantled and institutional transformations changed colonial relationships in Africa and other parts of the world. This study investigates the political networking and internal organizational changes in five British multinationals (United Africa Company, John Holt & Co., Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, Bank of West Africa and Barclays Bank DCO). These firms were forced to adapt their strategies and operations to changing institutional environments in two English-speaking West African countries, Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) and Nigeria, from the late 1940s to the late 1970s. Decolonization meant that formerly imperial businesses needed to develop new political networks and change their internal organization and staffing to promote more Africans to managerial roles. This postcolonial transition culminated in indigenization programmes (and targeted nationalizations) which forced foreign companies to sell equity and assets to domestic investors in the 1970s. Managing Postcolonial Transitions is the first in-depth historical study on how British firms sought to adapt over several decades to rapid political and economic transformation in West Africa.

Author Biography

Stephanie Decker is professor of Strategy at the University of Birmingham Business School, UK, and visiting professor in African Business History at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She is joint editor-in-chief of Business History, on the editorial board of Organization Studies, Journal of International Business Studies and Accounting History, and Co-Vice Chair for Research & Publications at the British Academy of Management.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction.
  2. Organizational Legitimacy and the Development Discourse.

PART 1 – Managing Postcolonial Transitions Externally .

  1. Corporate Political Activities before and after Independence.
  2. Indigenization Programmes and Organizational Legitimacy.

PART 2 – Managing Postcolonial Transitions Internally.

  1. Africanization in Companies and in the Civil Service.
  2. African Managers in British Businesses.
  1. Conclusions.


1. Introduction

This chapter introduces the book and provides an overview of key terms and the historical context, the companies selected for the study, and the country context. The term postcolonial transition describes the changes in countries like Ghana and Nigeria during decolonization and the first two decades of independence. Multinationals became increasingly aware of the need to build goodwill with domestic stakeholders. The book details their legitimization strategies, especially in terms of corporate political activities (Part 1) and Africanization (e.g., promoting African staff to positions of responsibility, Part 2). The introduction reviews the relevant literature, covering several different topics, such as decolonization and development thinking, economic nationalism and expropriations, Africanization and business historical studies of corporate legitimacy.

2. Organisational Legitimacy and the Development Discourse

Development economics emerged as a discipline out of World War 2 and its aftermath. Development ideas came to shape the legitimization strategies of imperial business during decolonization and continued to do so after independence. This chapter traces the nature of this development discourse internationally, specifically in West Africa, and how it shaped corporate responses to political and economic change. The influence of development discourse went beyond corporate strategies to foster political goodwill. It influenced commercial strategies such as refocusing activities and expansion beyond urban areas. By the late 1960s, this development discourse was under strain, and with it, multinationals found it more challenging to maintain the legitimacy of their subsidiaries.

3. Corporate Political Activities Before and After Independence

Corporate political activities became a major focus for British multinationals in West Africa as decolonization became a political reality. This chapter outlines how firms framed their key concerns over time and how this changed during decolonisation and after independence. Companies varied their legitimisation strategies from building personal networks to collective action. Whilst their focus was on colonial officials in the late 1940s and early 1950s, many companies began developing contacts with nationalist politicians and traditional rulers in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1950s. This strategy continued after independence, even though firms faced greater criticism in the 1960s and 1970s.

4. Indigenization Programmes and Organizational Legitimacy 

This chapter focuses on the expropriations and indigenization programmes of the late 1960s and 1970s in Nigeria and Ghana. It traces the complex sequence of different types of local content legislation and analyzes the corporate responses to these programmes. The Nigerian Enterprise Promotion Decrees were amongst the most comprehensive of these programmes in Africa. They were introduced when Nigeria realized windfall profits from its oil and petroleum industries, and thus multinationals were paying close attention. Expropriations of foreign companies in West Africa and beyond have been of interest to researchers in economic sociology, law, international business, and history. The final section engages with these debates based on the archival evidence from multinationals in Ghana and Nigeria.

5. Africanization in Companies and the Civil Service

In this chapter, the progress of Africanization in the civil service and in companies is compared to understand better what were the drivers and constraints of these changes. Progress in the private sector also varied between industries and companies, reflecting different legitimization strategies espoused by firms. Whilst Africanization progressed fastest in commercial companies, UAC was certainly more advanced than Holts. Banking generally lacked behind the commercial sector, and the archival records from BWA were not sufficiently detailed for a comparison. Mining was slowest; this may reflect AGC being particularly resistant under the leadership of Edward Spears to Africanize. Finally, this chapter investigates some of the factors that limited effective Africanization: high staff turnover due to significant skills shortages, ceilings to African advancement, and colonial salary structures that continued with limited reform into the independence period.

6. African Managers in British Businesses

Promoting African staff in formerly imperial British multinationals required significant changes to internal operations in organizations shaped by expatriate leadership. This chapter first discusses the changing relationship between expatriates and Africans and how companies constructed the notion of cultural and social distance between these two groups of employees. Many firms opted to develop staff training schemes to imbue corporate cultures and expectations to prepare Africans for management. British business leaders were concerned about whether they could trust their African staff, especially at times of rising anti-colonial and nationalist sentiment. As a group of employees, African staff also became more fractured in their interests – those who were promoted to managerial positions and better benefits and those who were not. In mining, the question of whom the African trade unions could represent and whether that included African managers led to conflicts. The rising economic nationalism of the 1970s created more opportunities for African managers in senior leadership positions in multinationals and to go alone in an entrepreneurial venture, sometimes competing with their former employers.

7. Conclusion

This chapter concludes the book and summarizes its main arguments: the type of legitimization strategies firms espoused to manage the postcolonial transition period in Ghana and Nigeria strategically. They relied on the then-dominant development discourse to frame their commercial activities, expanded their political networks, and began to advance their African staff to more responsible positions. As the post-war development framework lost its relevance in the face of economic difficulties, multinationals found their organizational legitimacy undermined. Expropriations and indigenization decrees often required multinationals to rely even more on their African managers, who benefitted from these opportunities for investment and advancement. Whilst the debate has usually focused on the question of control over foreign-dominated sectors of the economy, this book argues that legitimacy theory provides a better understanding of the strategies and constraints that multinationals were facing in West Africa and beyond.

Photograph of Richard Dyson (on the left) of Barclays Bank meeting Samuel Akintola, Premier of Nigeria’s Western Region, in 1964. Reproduced with kind permission of Barclays Group Archives.

Business Archives Council News

The BAC Wadsworth Prize was awarded to Greg Finch this year for his book The Blacketts: A Northern Dynasty’s Rise, Crisis and Redemption, published by Tyne Bridge Publishing in 2021. It has been reviewed in Business History by John Wilson. 

Because the BAC’s Annual Research Support Bursary had not been awarded since 2018, three grants were made, to: 

  • Chris Corker, to support the completion of a project on the history of stainless steel
  • Lewis Smith, to access the National Gas Archive and History of Advertising Trust to analyse how nationalised industries fed into issues such as gender, masculinity and public service
  • Emma West, for her project ‘Art in the Pub: Democracy, Community and Gender’, which will explore how brewers made arts and cultural activities available to pubgoers from the 1930s to the 1960s. 

The BAC Cataloguing Grant was awarded was given to the Arts University Bournemouth for work on the Thorp Modelmaking Archive, a unique collection of photographs and documents recording the history of the oldest architectural modelmakers in Britain. The company was founded in 1883. 

Some ABH members may also be unaware of the sad news that Lesley Richmond died on 28 September. Lesley was the former University Archivist, where she managed the Scottish Business Archive, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Business History in Scotland, both at the University of Glasgow. She wrote extensively about business archives and produced several guides to business archive collections, as well as undertaking surveys of business archives still in private hands. Many business history researchers will have benefitted from her knowledge and expertise.

Archives & Artificial Intelligence

We are very pleased to be part of the AURA special issue in AI & Society 37,3. The special issue explores how modern data analytics affect archival practice, through conceptual and applied articles as well as elaborated case studies. Contributions consider a variety of issues, from new and exciting opportunities for exploration to continuing exclusion of communities, and provide food for thought for anyone interested in the future of history in a world increasingly captivated by AI.

Launching the Dotcom-Archive website!

Our AHRC-funded project, Contextualizing Email Archives has recently finished and we are proud to share with you one of our major outputs: the Dotcom-Archive website!

Our new website tells the history of a Dotcom start-up company through its emails, opening a window into the first digital revolution. Our very own desktop assistant, Mr Gummy, guides you through four vignettes giving background information and directions. The vignettes deal with claims of the end of strategy in the Dotcom-era, burning through investor cash, trying to figure out how to make money from software and platform business models, and how to take a digital venture into international markets. These stories can be read on their own or used for teaching. 

The website is part of our wider AHRC-funded project. We believe emails are a valuable source of historical record, particularly for those wishing to understand the organizations of the digital era. Our project delivers two distinct outputs – the Dotcom-Archive website, and the EMCODIST search prototype that we used to create it.  

Stay tuned for updates, as we’re looking forward to announcing some more exciting plans on here soon. Until then, you can read more about our project in our open access publications: 

AI & Society

IEEE Big Data conference paper  

“Contextualising Email Archives” is a UK/US collaboration funded by UK Research and Innovation and led by the University of Bristol. Other partners are the National Archives (UK), Hagley Museum and Library (US), University of Maryland, and De Montfort University. The Dotcom-Archive website was developed by GreenHat Bristol and realised by ResearchIT Bristol.

New historical article in HR

I am pleased to see another really interesting historical article has been published open access in Human Relations:

Business as service? Human Relations and the British interwar management movement

Mairi Maclean, Gareth Shaw, Charles Harvey 

First Published January 19, 2022 Research Article


To what extent should business have an implication of service when its fundamental purpose is profit-seeking? We explore this issue through a contextually informed reappraisal of British interwar management thinking (1918–1939), drawing on rich archival material concerning the Rowntree business lectures and management research groups. Whereas existing literature is framed around scientific management versus human relations schools, we find a third pronounced, related theme: business as service. Our main contribution is to identify the origins in Britain of the discourse of corporate social responsibility in the guise of business as service. We show that this emerged earlier than commonly assumed and was imbued with an instrumental intent from its inception as a form of management control. This was a discourse emanating not from management theorists but from management practitioners, striving to put the corporate system on a sustainable footing while safeguarding the power, authority, and legitimacy of incumbent managerial elites.

ABH has a new website

The Association of Business Historians (UK) has a new website: – it’s a great new look so go check it out.