International Business History
Over the last 150 years multinational enterprises have become a steadily more important aspect of global economic activity, and so this module examines the entrepreneurs, financiers and managers behind the development of pioneering international businesses from mining to mobile phone networks. We’ll start with an assessment of the panoply of British firms formed to undertake business elsewhere in the world, much of it associated with natural resource extraction or the provision of utilities, such as water and railways. We then turn to consider what are more commonly recognised as multinationals, those manufacturers who first explored the merits of international production, such as Singer and Ford. Woven into our consideration of firms and sectors will be an attempt to understand how those involved with multinationals dealt with the problems and opportunities of managing businesses that spanned nations; distance, language, culture, politics, law and ethics being just some of the challenges that faced these pioneers. Working from leading research articles, we’ll assess the evidence and explanations of the rise of multinational enterprises. You’ll also work with illustrative primary materials in class, and seek to establish your own understanding of the development of these businesses. All this culminates in the assessment that you’ll work on throughout the duration of the module:
- a survey essay that would work as the introduction to an edited book, and
- a short piece of original research on an early multinational.
This module takes an international perspective and uses empirical data to look at firms operating across borders. It enables students to study firms from anywhere in the world, operating in any country.
All of the resources for this module are available on the ELE (Exeter Learning Environment).
This module helps students develop their skills in investigation and research, as well as their ability to work independently.
Full module specification
|Module title:||International Business History|
|Duration of module:||
Duration (weeks) - term 1: |
Over the last 150 years multinational enterprises have become a steadily more important aspect of global
economic activity, and so this module examines the entrepreneurs, financiers and managers behind the
development of pioneering international businesses, from mining conglomerates to mobile phone
networks. The module thereby aims to enable students to gain a historically informed understanding of
contemporary global business activities. The aim is to also enable students to bring their prior subject
knowledge – from whatever discipline – and apply it to the context of international business in an earlier
age of globalisation.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. demonstrate an understanding of the historical development and importance of multinational enterprises
- 2. explain the strategies pursued by multinationals in different sectors over time
- 3. assess how entrepreneurs and managers met the political, ethical, cultural and organisational challenges of operating across borders at different times
- 4. judge historical evidence
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 5. compile evidence on business activity from varied sources
- 6. construct an original research project into a firm / organisation
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 7. integrate and assess evidence from multiple sources
- 8. write in an academic style
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|In-class exercises and preparatory work for both assignments||Varies||1-8||Verbal and written, and group-wide formative feedback via ELE|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Essay||50||2500 words||1-4, 7-8||Individual written feedback, and generic group wide feedback via ELE|
|Research project||50||2500 words||2-8||Formative feedback in class during the preparation and development of the assignment. Individual written feedback, and generic group wide feedback via ELE|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Essay||Essay (50%) 2500 words||1-4, 7-8||July|
|Research project||Research project (50%) 2500 words||2-8||July|
The module starts with an assessment of the panoply of British firms formed to undertake business elsewhere in the world, much of it associated with natural resource extraction or the provision of utilities, such as water and railways. We then turn to consider what are more commonly recognised as multinationals, those manufacturers who first explored the merits of international production, such as Singer and Ford.
Woven into our consideration of firms and sectors will be an attempt to understand how those involved
with multinationals dealt with the problems and opportunities of managing businesses that spanned nations; distance, language, culture, politics, law and ethics being just some of the challenges that faced these pioneers.
• International Business History – an introduction
• Foreign Direct Investment during the long 20th Century
• Multinationals and Phases of Globalisation
• Free-standing Companies and the Origins of “Born-Global” Firms
• Exploiting Opportunities: Natural Resources, Manufacturing and Services
• Evidence and Analysis in International Business History
• Building Organisations: Methods for Crossing Borders and the Management of Multinationals
• Public Policy and Government / Business Relations
• Multinationals and Home Economies
• Multinationals as Engines of Growth
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Essential Reading – This module has a set textbook and students are expected to purchase it.
Other Essential Reading will be provided in a virtual module resource pack available on ELE. The set text is:
Jones, G. (2005) Multinationals and Global Capitalism: from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, Oxford: OUP. [ISBN: 0199272107]
• Further Reading – Some Further Reading will be required to supplement the set textbook and other provided Essential Reading (see above). The purpose of this Further Reading is to ensure students are familiar with current research, classic works, and material specific to their interests and assignments from the academic – often journal – literature. Suggested Further Reading by topic will be indicted in the module handbook/outline provided at the start of the module. However students are also expected to employ their own initiative and discretion in selecting appropriate Further Reading that will support their study. It is expected that students will engage with the academic journal literature on this subject, and as such are likely to use articles from academic journals such as Business History, Business History Review, Enterprise & Society, and the Journal of International Business Studies. Access to all these publications is available through the library, and most are available electronically.
• Indicative Reading List – To supplement the guidance on reading given above, the following list is offered to provide students, potential students, validation panels and accrediting bodies with an indication of the type and level of information that those enrolled on the module may be expected to consult. As such, its currency may wane during the life span of the module specification. However, as indicated above, current advice on readings will be available via other more frequently updated mechanisms.
Amatori, F. and Jones, G. (2003) Business History Around the World, Cambridge University Press
Chandler, A.D., Amatori, F., and Hikino, T. (eds.) (1997) Big Business and the Wealth of Nations, Cambridge University Press
Chandler, A.D. and Mazlish, B. (eds.) (2005) Leviathans: Multinational Corporations and the New Global History, Cambridge University Press
Jones, G. (2000) Merchants to Multinationals, Oxford University Press
Jones, G. and Schröter, H. (eds.) (1993) The Rise of Multinationals in Continental Europe, Edward Elgar
Rugman, Alan M. and Brewer, Thomas L. (eds.) (2003) The Oxford Handbook of International Business, Oxford University Press
Wilkins, M. (1970) The emergence of multinational enterprise: American business abroad from the colonial era to 1914, Harvard University Press
Wilkins, M. (1974) Maturing of Multinational Enterprises: American Business Abroad from 1914 to 1970, Harvard University Press
Wilkins, M. and Schröter, H. (eds.) (1998) The Free-Standing Company in the World Economy, 1830 – 1996, Oxford University Press
Module has an active ELE page?
Last revision date