A revisionist historiography of business history: A richer past for a richer future
Business historians have recently devoted considerable attention to the future of their discipline. These re-imaginings have involved exploring a range of new topics, re-conguring relationships to other academic disciplines and expanding the methodological and theoretical foundations of their research (e.g., Hansen, 2012; Scranton and Fridenson, 2013; Wadhwani and Bucheli, 2014; de Jong, Higgins and Driel, 2015; Decker, Kipping and Wadhwani, 2015). Business history, it is fair to conclude, is in an inventive mood, bursting with multiple futures and paths forward. Yet, little of this creative energy has been devoted to re-interpretations of business history’s past. Even in a so-called “post-Chandlerian” era, the historiography of business history remains framed in reference to Chandler’s work if not in Chandlerian terms and topics (Hausman, 2003; see e.g., Hannah, 1999; Friedman and Jones, 2011; Scranton and Fridenson, 2013). The very designation “post-Chandlerian” implies that in terms of periodization the eld’s history can and should be divided neatly into the era of “the founder”, who supposedly lifted the study of business history out of purely narrative accounts of heroic if not always ethical entrepreneurs (McCraw, 1988), and the current epoch, in which both his disciples and his detractors have strayed into new lands.