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 in the first quarter of the 20th century, 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 British based companies dealt with the problems and opportunities of managing businesses that spanned nations; distance, language, culture, politics, law and ethics, including forms of modern slavery. Working from leading research articles, we’ll assess the evidence and explanations of the rise of multinational enterprises. You will also work with illustrative primary materials in class, and seek to establish your own understanding of the development of a particular business from a hundred years ago. The focus then shifts to contemporary companies in the Fortune Global 500 and how they use their history for strategy and marketing, as well as issues of historic Corporate Social Responsibility. All this culminates in the assessment that you’ll work on throughout the duration of the module:
- a research project on a British company with overseas interests from 1916, and
- an essay on the use of history by a contemporary global corporation.
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). Employability
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|
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity||20||Lectures|
|Guided Independent Study||130||Reading, preparation for classes and assessments|
|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 (50%)||Essay (50%) 2500 words||1-4, 7-8||July|
|Research project (50%)||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 in the early 20th century, many of which can be described as free standing companies. We consider how these companies dealt with the problems and opportunities of managing businesses that spanned nations; distance, language, culture, politics, law and ethics, especially in relation to labour and modern slavery. We then consider how contemporary global corporations deal with their history, in relation to strategy, marketing, and historic Corporate Social Responsibility.
- International Business in historical context
- Foreign Direct Investment: concepts and data
- Free-Standing Companies
- Researching and Writing the History of a Company
- Modern Slavery
- Explaining Multinationals and Managing Across Borders
- Use & Abuse of Business History
- Corporate History and Rhetorical History
- The Rhetoric of History in Strategy
- Historic Corporate Social Responsibility
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
The lectures refer to several textbooks.
Fitzgerald, R. 2015. The rise of the global company: Multinationals and the making of the modern world: Cambridge University Press.
Jones, G. (2005) Multinationals and Global Capitalism: from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, Oxford: OUP. [ISBN: 0199272107]
Further Reading from relevant books and journals will be suggested in each lecture.
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