The Usefulness of History in Business and Economics

Prof. Colin Michael White
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The study of business, economics and management is currently lacking in an integrating theoretical framework, despite an obvious overlap in content. A potential source for such a framework is provided by the historical context which is similar for each of these study areas. However the use of history in each area is currently both fragmentary and contradictory. Economic theory treats economic history as applied economics, a laboratory testing ground for particular theories rather than a legitimate context for all economics. Much economics is ahistorical, and deliberately so. Business histories exist independently of any systematic application of economic or management theory. It is a rare practitioner who consciously uses such theory in a business history or draws theoretical lessons from the historical analysis in the relevant business history. Case studies, or rather case histories, have been used in management studies from the beginning as an important pedagogical approach, but the theoretical grounds for doing so and for using such cases in systematic research are not investigated in any depth. This paper seeks to show how the historical context can link these study areas together. An appropriate meta-theory reflecting the historical nature of these areas of study can unify them in a way not achieved before.

Keywords: Economic history, Business history, Case histories, Unifying meta-theory
Stream: History, Historiography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Colin Michael White

Risk manager, Risk division, National Bank of Australia

Katie Fan (Miao Fan) was educated in northern China where her first degree was in the English language. For a short period she worked in the marketing area, selling real estate for a Hong Kong company. In 1998 she continued her studies at Hertford University in England, completing an MBA there. She arrived in Australia in late 1999 and has since acquired residence status. Her PhD was successfully completed at Swinburne University of Technology over a four year period. It was on country risk and had at its core a survey of Australian companies engaged in foreign direct investment and their attitude to country risk. This research led her to take a position in the National Bank working in their risk division. She has been the joint writer, with Professor Colin White, of a number of papers on country risk and foreign direct investment given throughout the world. On this occasion Prof. White is presenting the paper.

Ref: H05P0761