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University of Exeter Business School

Business History

Module titleBusiness History
Module codeBEP1160
Academic year2023/4
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

Studying business history gives you a unique opportunity to understand and assess the factors, both economic and social, that shape our world – including in relation to globalisation and sustainability. This module will introduce students to the challenges of business growth and success which are very much the same today as they were in the past. In this module you will review the growth of business enterprises, the modernisation of business practice and, the relationship between business and the emergence of new forms of global economy and global supply chains.

There are no pre-requisites.

The module will be of particular interest to Business, History and interdisciplinary students.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module focuses on the growth of major business organisations that have had a significant impact on society and played a role in human history. Using a historical lens, you will examine the basic frameworks and structures of business that we use today. The organisational arrangements of business transactions in the preindustrial period are contrasted with contemporary internal and external business environments to contextualise a discussion about Business Management as a career. Global, national and global trade contexts will be used to demonstrate how business shapes opportunity and innovation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Evaluate historical evidence from a range of sources
  • 2. Explain the concept of rhetorical history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Example the strategies pursued by enterprises over time
  • 4. Compile a chronology of the emergence of modern global business

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Recognise diverse individual and cultural perspectives
  • 6. Adapt and adjust both written and verbal communication styles, to meet the needs of diverse audiences

Syllabus plan

Indicative syllabus:

  • Discovering the potential for Business History
  • Understanding business or organisational activity in the past
  • Understanding how history making businesses can shape a region: Energy and climate, mining, digital and creative, health technology, agri-tech, food and drink, space and aerospace
  • Researching records of businesses and industry held in archives
  • Visualising Business history
  • Looking at the past to look towards the future
  • Exploring the concept of rhetorical history by exploring an organisation’s memory
  • Researching and Writing the History of a Company
  • The impact of technology on commerce and the evolution of Business Information Systems
  • Uncovering heritage by tracing the history of a brand: A case study of a leading telecommunications and entertainment provider
  • Strategy: Learning from History
  • Business History, environmental sustainability and social responsibility 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Seminars, workshops, group activities, analysis of archival data
Guided independent study35Preparatory reading prior to taught sessions
Guided Independent Study50Self-guided study on ELE
Guided Independent Study50Reflection and further reading: Guided reading & completion of assigned activities

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weblog to showcase a company history100 words1,2,6Oral and written feedback
Report outline200 words3,4Oral and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Poster30A one-slide poster (500 words equivalent)11,2,6Oral and written feedback
Report702000 words1,3,4,5Oral and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Poster (500 word equivalent)A one-slide poster (500 words equivalent)1,2,6Referral/Deferral Period
Report (2000 words)Report (2000 words)1,3,4,5Referral/Deferral Period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as defined above. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • John F. Wilson, Ian G. Jones, Steven Toms, Anna Tilba, Emily Buchnea, and Nicholas Wong, Business History: A Research Overview. London & New York: Routledge, 2022.

Key words search

Business, history, globalization, sustainability

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date