Business History Society of Japan

Message from the President
"What the Business History Society of Japan Aims to Achieve"
Takeo Kikkawa,
Hitotsubashi University, President Business History Society of Japan

I took office as president of the Business History Society of Japan in January 2013, replacing my predecessor, Takeshi Abe. I am the tenth president of the Society, which was presided over by Yoshitaro Wakimura at the point of its establishment in 1964. I am resolved to do what I can to develop this large Society whose members number today 834. I ask for your kind cooperation in my endeavors.

Business history studies are a branch of learning in which the history of business administration is studied with a focus on processes, rather than results. If anything, the neighboring field of economic history studies focuses on finding commonalities between analyzed players. In contrast, business history studies place importance on the independent actions of players and shed light on their respective characteristics. Such differences exist between these two adjacent disciplines.

Business history is a relatively new field of study. It was born in the United States around the time of the Great Depression in 1929. As such a beginning indicates, such study has always been closely related to trends in real society. Business history studies spread to all parts of the world in step with business administration development on a global scale after the end of World War II. Academics set up business history societies in advanced industrialized countries first. In recent years their counterparts have established these societies in emerging nations in succession.

Established during the period of Japan’s high economic growth, the Business History Society of Japan has placed particular importance on exchanges with business history societies and researchers around the globe. Activities such as the continued hosting of Fuji Conferences, the publication of Japan Research in Business History (JRBH), an academic journal in English, and the hosting of bilateral conferences on business history with counterpart societies in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Thailand represent this policy. The Business History Society of Japan also contributed to the success of the Annual Congress of the European Business History Association held in Paris in August and September 2012 by cohosting it, dispatching more than eighty researchers, and requiring them to give presentations. There is also a long list of future events in which the Society plans to take active part or cooperate. These include the preliminary meeting for the World Business History Congress in Frankfurt in 2014, the World Economic History Congress in Kyoto in 2015 and the First World Business History Congress in Bergen, Norway, in 2016.

Looking at relationships with real society, expectations for business history studies, which offer society suggestions from a historical perspective, have been growing as the worldwide economic slump triggered by the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 continues, creating a situation in which the very system of capitalism is called into question. Generally speaking, no effect will result, however outstanding ideas may be and however correct theories may be, unless these ideas and theories are placed in historical context for fundamentally solving serious problems faced by a specific industry or company. Solving a problem requires a great deal of energy, too. Dynamism for development contained in the concerned industry or company is the basis for generating such energy, but in many cases this dynamism is latent. To access it, we must start with detailed observation of long-term changes in the industry or company. We can find a course for acquiring energy needed for solving the problem using such observation for reference if we can grasp the dynamism of development with the observation as the starting point. Moreover, we can actualize problem-solution by placing this energy in context and connecting it with appropriate ideas and theories. Expectations for business history studies, a branch of learning in which long-term changes in industries and at companies are observed in depth, are mounting for these reasons.

Former Business History Society of Japan President Abe achieved consistent results under three priority policies he set for the Society: (1) promotion of research globalization, (2) promotion of informatization and (3) information provision to young generations. I am determined to succeed this line and make efforts under the same policies. On this occasion I would like to mention the following three key phrases to communicate what the Society aims to achieve.

The first phrase is “winds of learning.” We must let the winds blow. The Society has, to date, focused on causing the winds of learning to blow through its activities, such as double-blind screening of papers contributed to its journal, honoring of young distinguished scholars’ research achievements with the Business History Society of Japan Award, hosting of sectional meetings in all areas of Japan, and research-related information exchanges on its website. We must step up these activities from this point on. Members of the Society are asked to take active part in academic conferences related to business history studies held around the world, and to contribute to these meetings in a qualitative sense, in addition to a quantitative sense.

The second phrase is “communication with society,” which we must emphasize. The saying that “fools learn from experience, wise people learn from the experience of others” comes to mind as the global economy becomes increasingly chaotic. Expectations for business history studies are rising. Business history researchers must increase their sensitivity toward messages that come from society and set themes precisely. They are asked to send out to society suggestions gained as a result of their struggle with the themes, and to offer suggestions to many people if possible. In doing so, they must present an accurate historical view and a broad perspective. That will be the mission of business history researchers as historians.

The third key phrase is “free and open-minded.” The Business History Society of Japan must perform its activities in this way. Many interested people outside the Society, such as editors well acquainted with circumstances at the Society, say that an academic society with such a free atmosphere is rare. We must treasure this organizational culture. Being free and open-minded is the first condition for causing the winds of learning to blow. Continual efforts are necessary for maintaining and strengthening this condition. We must take a firm stand in opposition to the prevalence of authoritarianism that kills free and open-minded culture, and to the occurrence of harassment.

The Business History Society of Japan will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2014. To commemorate the occasion, the Society plans to publish two books that delve deeply into the achievements of and themes for business history studies. The Society is also making special preparations for the forty-ninth International Conference on Business History at Ryukoku University in 2013 and the 50th International Conference on Business History at Bunkyo Gakuin University in 2014, positioning these conferences as commemorative gatherings. We are resolved to devoting all our energies to the development of business history studies with the support of not only Society members but also people outside our organization. We ask for your continued understanding and support.

January 1, 2013
Takeo Kikkawa