Adam Frost on Chinese Business History

Business History Review has published an important piece titled “Reframing Chinese Business History” by Adam Frost. This is another example of business history becoming more international to engage more with research on under-represented areas. The article is now available online and open access (see abstract and link below).

OHN will take a break over the holidays, and we wish you a merry Christmas, happy winter holidays, and fingers crossed for the new year, wherever you are!


Business history is expanding to include a greater plurality of contexts, with the study of Chinese business representing a key area of growth. However, despite efforts to bring China into the fold, much of Chinese business history remains stubbornly distal to the discipline. One reason is that business historians have not yet reconciled with the field’s unique origins and intellectual tradition. This article develops a revisionist historiography of Chinese business history that retraces the field’s development from its Cold War roots to the present day, showing how it has been shaped by the particular questions and concerns of “area studies.” It then goes on to explore five recent areas of novel inquiry, namely: the study of indigenous business institutions, business and semi-colonial context, business at the periphery of empire, business during socialist transition, and business under Chinese socialism. Through this mapping of past and present trajectories, the article aims to provide greater coherence to the burgeoning field and shows how, by taking Chinese business history seriously, we are afforded a unique opportunity to reimagine the future of business history as a whole.

Access the article here.

Chinese Business History Workshop – BHC Annual Meeting 2022

Sponsored by the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong

Chinese Business History – the study of the historical development of business and entrepreneurship in China – saw its beginnings as a field during the 1980s when scholars in China and abroad started to probe the historical origins of the rapid rise of Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses after China’s Reform and Opening Up. Between the 1980s and early 2000s, the field grew steadily and produced several important research monographs and collaborative research projects. While individual scholars of Chinese history have continued to work on matters relating to business, entrepreneurship and commerce, collaborative research in the field has become largely dormant during the past two decades. This not only reduced interactions among scholars working on Chinese business history but also resulted in a dearth in efforts to answer collaboratively larger questions about the historical development of Chinese entrepreneurship and synthesize individual studies to move the larger field forward. Moreover, too little interaction exists between scholars of Chinese business history and business historians working on other regions of the world.
This one-day pre-meeting workshop aims to both bring together Chinese business historians and facilitate discussion between business historians working on China and those working on other regions. We particularly encourage graduate students and early career scholars to submit their papers. Proposals should include a 250-words abstract and a bio of no more than 200 words and should be sent to by 7 November 2021. This proposal process is separate from the proposal process of the annual meeting and papers should be distinct from those submitted to the annual meeting (though submitting a separate paper to the annual meeting is not a requirement).