The General Theme of WCBH 2021: “Business History in a Changing World”

As we entered the final decade of the twentieth century a shared sense of optimism and certainty towards the twenty first century pervaded. The triumph of liberal democracy was lauded and the march towards economic integration and globalization relentless.

However, as we approach the end of the second decade of the twenty first century, several events and developments have tempered such optimism. The rise of China as the “workshop of the world” has had economic implications across the globe and challenged conventional models of industrialization and the prerequisite governing institutions to bring about that process. Several crises have beset national and global economies in recent memory, including the financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the rise of neo-nationalism and populism, “lost decades” of economic growth, the fallout from 9-11, and Brexit, to name but a few. Furthermore, looming challenges associated with demographic transition, technological and climate change shroud the prospects of our future society and economy with a degree of uncertainty, casting into doubt what once seemed the inevitable path towards political democratization and economic globalization. Rather than witnessing any “end of history”, understanding change over time remains of central importance to our discipline and wider society.

We therefore call on Business Historians to come together and examine “Business History in a Changing World” during the 2nd World Congress on Business History to be held online on September 9-11, 2021. Reflecting the ever-changing world of business, the discipline of Business History has been far from static. In recent decades there has been a dramatic diversification in both research topics and methods following on from the now classic works of Chandler et al. The emergence of research relating to alternative historical approaches and organizational science, and those which incorporate quantitative methods and/or embraces the “cultural turn”; the institutionalization of Business History research with the establishment of academic societies and academic journals; the internationalization of the field, etc., are all encouraging trends and evidence of a vibrant research field. We thus welcome you to attend the World Congress of Business History and join the academic debate on “Business History in a Changing World.



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