Civilizations is the theme of the 2017 Business History Conference meeting. From the House of Medici to Japan, Inc., business and commerce have shaped society and public life. Eighteenth-century social theorists such as Montesquieu and Smith described the “civilizing” process of long-distance trade networks in agricultural staples and luxury goods in the transition from feudalism to commercialism.
In the early 20th century, the U.S. was often seen as a nation where businesspeople, with their ambitions and innovations, had even come to define society. In 1931 James Truslow Adams characterized the United States as a “business civilization,” in which “most of the energy, ability, and ambition of the country has found its outlet, if not its satisfaction, in business.” More recently, with rising globalization and financialization, observers in many countries—Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, and China—have noted, with alarm or excitement, the role high-tech entrepreneurs and international bankers have played in shaping social norms and policy. In 2009 an economic summit in China explored the “Chinese approach to a new business civilization.”
The theme of “civilizations” is meant to suggest broad connections between business and the way of life that characterizes particular regions or countries. The program committee of Susie Pak (chair), Eric Hilt, Caitlin Rosenthal, Lars Heide, Jessica Burch, and Walter Friedman (BHC president) invites papers addressing the questions:
- What brought some 20th century writers, historians, and economists to perceive the emergence of a “business civilization” in parts of the world?
- What has been the influence, comparatively across nations, of business values on culture, politics, and the arts?
- Are there varieties of business civilizations, just as there are varieties of capitalism?
- When does business practice enrich the civilizing process and when does it degrade it?
- Can corporate governance produce “civilized businesses,” i.e. ones that are socially accountable?
The theme is also intended to invite discussion of how ideas about “civilization” have been contested. For a diverse group of writers—including, for instance, Thorstein Veblen, C. Wright Mills, and the novelist Joshua Ferris, who wrote Then We Came to the End (2007)—the realities of business life, with its codes of dress, specialized machinery, and arcane politics, render the idea of “business civilizations” ironic or satirical. More fundamentally, recent works that emphasize the interrelation of capitalism with destruction, war, and slavery suggest that “business” and “civilization” can be deeply opposing forces.
While we encourage proposals to take up this theme, papers addressing all other topics will receive equal consideration by the program committee in accordance with BHC policy. The program committee will consider both individual papers and entire panels. Individual paper proposals should include a one-page (300 word) abstract and one-page curriculum vitae (CV). Panel proposals should include a cover letter stating the rationale for the panel and the name of its contact person; one-page (300 word) abstract and author’s CV for each paper; and a list of preferred panel chairs and commentators with contact information. To submit a proposal go to http://thebhc.org/2017meeting and click on the link Submit a Paper/Panel Proposal.
All sessions take place at the Embassy Suites Denver-Downtown. Rooms (all suites) are $150/night and include a full breakfast.
The K. Austin Kerr Prize will be awarded for the best first paper delivered by a new scholar at the annual meeting. A “new scholar” is defined as a doctoral candidate or a Ph. D. whose degree is less than three years old. You must nominate your paper for this prize on the proposal submission page where indicated. Please check the appropriate box if your proposal qualifies for inclusion in the Kerr Prize competition.
The deadline for receipt of all proposals is 3 October 2016. Acceptance letters will be sent by 31 December 2016. Everyone appearing on the program must register for the meeting. Graduate students and recent PhDs (within 3 years of receipt of degree) whose papers are accepted for the meeting may apply for funds to partially defray their travel costs; information will be sent out once the program has been set.
The BHC awards the Herman E. Krooss Prize for the best dissertation in business history by a recent Ph.D. in history, economics, business administration, the history of science and technology, sociology, law, communications, and related fields. To be eligible, dissertations must be completed in the three calendar years immediately prior to the 2017 annual meeting, and may only be submitted once for the Krooss prize. After the Krooss committee has reviewed the proposals, it will ask semi-finalists to submit copies of their dissertations. Finalists will present summaries of their dissertations at a plenary session of the 2017 BHC annual meeting and will receive a partial subsidy of their travel costs to the meeting. Proposals accepted for the Krooss Prize are not eligible for the Kerr Prize. If you wish to apply for this prize please send a cover letter indicating you are applying for the Krooss prize along with a one-page CV and one-page (300 word) dissertation abstract via email to BHC@Hagley.org. The deadline for proposals for the Krooss prize is 3 October 2016.
The BHC Doctoral Colloquium in Business History will be held in conjunction with the BHC annual meeting. This prestigious workshop, funded by Cambridge University Press, will take place in Denver Wednesday March 29 and Thursday March 30. Typically limited to ten students, the colloquium is open to early stage doctoral candidates pursuing dissertation research within the broad field of business history, from any relevant discipline. Topics (see link for past examples) may range from the early modern era to the present, and explore societies across the globe. Participants work intensively with a distinguished group of BHC-affiliated scholars (including at least two BHC officers), discussing dissertation proposals, relevant literatures and research strategies, and career trajectories. Applications are due by 15 November 2016 via email to BHC@Hagley.org should include: a statement of interest; CV; preliminary or final dissertation prospectus (10-15 pages); and a letter of support from your dissertation supervisor (or prospective supervisor). Questions about the colloquium should be sent to its director, Edward Balleisen, email@example.com. All participants receive a stipend that partially defrays travel costs to the annual meeting. Applicants will receive notification of the selection committee’s decisions by 20 December 2016.
General questions regarding the BHC’s 2017 annual meeting may be sent to Secretary-Treasurer Roger Horowitz, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Ressler Lockman
Business History Conference