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Varieties of business history: Subject and methods for the twenty-first century


  • Christopher Kobrak
  • Andrea Schneider


This paper deals with different approaches to business history. It argues that conflicting choices about methodology and subject can enrich a discipline, but that some of the current disputes among business historians produce unnecessary opportunity costs and block a more integrated understanding of how firms function in their larger social, political and economic contexts. The paper provides examples of how the separation in the field works against writing business history that is at once rigorous and appeals to broad audiences. It also suggests two approaches for bridging methodological differences. The first calls for reviving some basic historiographical notions. The second involves developing a closer relationship with business to gain more access to private, primary source materials. German experiences are drawn on to show how mutually beneficial academic-business cooperation can be.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Kobrak & Andrea Schneider, 2011. "Varieties of business history: Subject and methods for the twenty-first century," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(3), pages 401-424.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:bushst:v:53:y:2011:i:3:p:401-424
    DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2011.565515

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    Cited by:

    1. Decker, Stephanie, 2012. "The silence of the archive: post-colonialism and the practice of historical reconstruction from archival evidence," MPRA Paper 37280, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Daniele Pozzi, 2016. "Heritage & profits: La storia come vantaggio competitivo per l'impresa," LIUC Papers in Economics 300, Cattaneo University (LIUC).
    3. Hadjikhani, Amjad & Hadjikhani, Annoch Isa & Thilenius, Peter, 2014. "The internationalization process model: A proposed view of firms’ regular incremental and irregular non-incremental behaviour," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 155-168.
    4. Peter J. Buckley, 2016. "Historical Research Approaches to the Analysis of Internationalisation," Management International Review, Springer, vol. 56(6), pages 879-900, December.


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