Coleman Prize presentations

Unfortunately this year’s Association of Business Historians (ABH) conference in Nottingham did not take place due to the ongoing pandemic. One session that was launched virtually was the Coleman Prize session, via Zoom. It was a strong year with three excellent presentations, which all three candidates on the shortlist agreed to share (see below).

First up, the Coleman Prize winner, Dr Akram Benjamin (University of Reading), who talked about his fascinating research on business networks and the financing of cotton in Egypt.

This was followed by a presentation on organizational corruption at Enron in the California Energy Crisis, by Dr Adam Nix (Aston University, now at De Montfort University).

Finally, the talk by David Paulson (University of Cambridge, now Queens University Belfast) compares SMEs in Britain and West Germany in 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, on the basis of painstaking work in multiple archives.

Coleman Prize session is going digital this year

Unfortunately, the ABH conference is not taking place due to COVID-19, but the Coleman Prize session will now be held virtually on Thursday, 25 June, 14:00-15:00 (UK time).

What is the Coleman Prize

Named in honour of the British Business Historian Donald Coleman, this prize is awarded annually by the Association of Business Historians to recognise excellence in new research in Britain. It is open to PhD dissertations in Business History either having a British subject or completed at a British University. All dissertations completed in the previous two calendar years to that of their submission are eligible (with the exception of previous submissions). It is a condition of eligibility for the Prize that shortlisted finalists will present their findings at the Association’s annual conference.

Sponsors

The value of the prize is £500 and it is sponsored by Taylor & Francis Group. It is a scholarly publisher, which makes available original manuscript collections, rare printed books and other primary source materials in microform and electronic format.

On the shortlist this year are:

  • Akram Beniamin, “Cotton, Finance and Business Networks in a Globalised World: The Case of Egypt during the first half of the Twentieth century “.
  • Adam Nix, “The Social Foundations of Organisational Corruption”.
  • David Paulson, “Small and medium sized Enterprises in Britain and West Germany c.1949-1979”.

If you would like to attend, please email Professor Neil Rollings (Neil.Rollings[at]Glasgow.Ac.Uk) for the joining details.

List of former Coleman Prize winners.

Coleman Prize 2019 goes to Joseph Lane

Coleman Prize 2019

From the ABH Newsletter:

The Coleman Prize 2019 was awarded at the Association’s Annual Conference hosted at Sheffield Hallam. This year’s finalists were Joe Lane who completed his PhD at the London School of Economics and Leigh Gleason who completed at De Montfort University. They both presented key findings for their PhD Dissertations in a plenary session. Joe’s dissertation entitled, Networks, innovation and knowledge: the North Staffordshire Potteries, 1750-1851, whilst Leigh’s is, Canvassed and Delivered: Direct Selling at Keystone View Company, 1898-1910.
The panel selected Joe Lane as the winner of the 2019 Coleman Prize! Congratulations to him and Leigh for two excellent dissertations and presentations.

Reflections on ABH 2019

Joseph Lane, Coleman Prize Winner 2019

The Steel City shone brightly this summer for the Association of Business Historian’s Annual Conference. Sheffield Hallam University, and in particular, John Singleton, hosted delegates for two days of academic discussion on business history topics ranging from trade, risk and war in the Early Modern period, and digital disruption from the late twentieth century. Nestled amongst striking architectural reminders of Sheffield’s historic relationship with business and industry, the modern Cantor building served as a hub for the conference, and a venue for lively conversation over refreshments and lunches. As a northerner and researcher of industrial clusters, I couldn’t help but notice the aptness of the site of one of the most iconic historic British industrial clusters (and my old stomping ground as a kid) was the setting for a gathering of business historians engaged in discussion, debate and collaboration. I feel it is my duty to invoke Marshall: business and industry were once again ‘in the air’.

This was my second ABH conference after my introduction to the association at the 2016 conference in Berlin as a PhD student. Having missed two years, I was pleased to be back in at the deep end attending as a panel co-chair and presenter, and potential Coleman Prize nominee (my thanks to the Association for selecting my work as the winning thesis!). A jam-packed schedule over both days emphasised why we gather each year: to promote and celebrate the study of business history, in all its varieties. This year did not disappoint; a total of fifty-nine papers were presented across twenty panels alongside a Keynote, and book-ended by the Tony Slaven Doctoral workshop and the Corley Paper Development Workshop for Early Career Researchers. A truly eclectic conference programme.
Top marks to the organising committee who selected the timely conference theme, ‘Business Transformation in an Uncertain World’, that captured and framed research on topics including the complexities and uncertainties of warfare and its aftermath, trust (or lack thereof) in the upper echelons of management and attempts to rebuild it, and female entrepreneurship and family firms in nineteenth-century Britain.

2007 Coleman Prize Winner Professor Stephanie Decker delivered a thought-provoking Keynote (an incentive for me to work hard!). Her lecture spoke directly to the conference themes of uncertainty and transformation. An intriguing delve into African advertising at Barclays Bank DCO in the 1950s revealed corporate strategy and legitimisation practices in the context of decolonisation and Africanization. A lesson in the value and use of corporate archives.
I was sad to miss the session devoted to innovative methods in business history (my own session ran at the same time). One of the characteristics that first attracted me to business history, and continues to do so, is the multiplicity of approaches that business historians are willing and able to adopt and draw on. Papers on transatlantic trade were rich with detail from seventeenth-century personal correspondence, close case studies of armaments and shipbuilding in Britain and Finland used photographic evidence from the first half of the twentieth century, and the appointment diaries of Margaret Thatcher were analysed using quantitative network analysis.

All this thought-provoking talk and research left delegates hungry and thirsty, which stood us in good stead for a short trip across the city for our reception and dinner on the first day. A good meal and chance to unwind after a long day sparked off interesting and wide-ranging conversations. Of the many conversations I had at the conference, two stand out – one about the importance of research grants and the digitisation of archival sources, and another about Harry Potter studio tours (I’ll leave the readers to determine which was with an old PhD colleague and which was with an ABH committee member!) The main point being the ABH is a place where PhD students, archivists and business historians (novice and experienced) meet and dispense with formalities to discuss that which we do and love: interpretation of the past.

My final reflection on this year’s conference is one of collegiality and warmth. From the many cups of coffee enjoyed with others during the breaks, to the reception and dinner, by way of rigorous and intriguing paper presentations, it was easy to find a friendly face. As the new academic year begins, I look forward to Nottingham in 2020 and my role as chair of the Coleman Prize Committee. Save-the-date for what promises to be another judicious conference theme: ‘Bubbles and Crises; Mayhem and Misery; Corruption and Disruption’

Coleman Prize for the best doctoral thesis in Business History 2019

Coleman Prize for Best PhD Dissertation
Sheffield Hallam University, 4-6 July 2019

Named in honour of the British business historian Donald Coleman (1920-1995), this prize is awarded annually by the Association of Business Historians to recognise excellence in new research in Britain. It is open to PhD dissertations in Business History (broadly defined) either having a British subject or completed at a British university. All dissertations completed in the previous calendar year to that of the Prize are eligible. In keeping with the ABH’s broad understanding of business history, applications are strongly encouraged from candidates in economic history, social history, labour history, intellectual history, cultural history, environmental history, the history of science and technology, the history of medicine, or any
other subfield. The value of the prize is £500, sponsored by the Taylor & Francis Group, a scholarly publisher.

To be eligible for the Prize, finalists must present their findings in person at the Association’s annual conference, held on 4-6 July 2019. A complete list of previous winners may be found at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/external/ABH/coleman.html

How to Apply for the Coleman Prize
Supervisors are encouraged to nominate recent PhDs, and self-nominations are also strongly welcomed. Please send a PDF including the title of your PhD dissertation and a brief abstract (up to 2 double-spaced pages) to christine.leslie@glasgow.ac.uk by 31 January 2019.
Shortlisted candidates will be requested to submit electronic copies of their theses by 21 February 2019. Finalists will be notified by 21 March 2019.
Everyone appearing on the programme must register for the meeting. PhD students whose papers are accepted for the meeting may apply for funds to partially defray their travel costs by applying to the Francesca Carnevali Travel Grant for PhD Students. A limited number of scholarships are available from the Francesca Carnevali fund of the ABH to contribute towards the travel, accommodation and registration costs of students doing a PhD in the United Kingdom, who are
presenting in the Slaven Workshop, the ABH conference or the Coleman Prize.
For more details: https://www.gla.ac.uk/external/ABH/