Corporate law, corporate governance and business history

Victoria Barnes (Editor), Jennifer Trinks (Editor), Sally Wheeler (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Business historians have long focused on topics of corporate governance and company law; questions about how firms are regulated are intertwined with studies of growth, failure, entrepreneurship and the social legitimacy of business. Those working on corporate governance and company law in a contemporary setting have often used historical lenses to consider how these subjects have developed through time and space. This collection identifies and sets out some of the key pieces. Yet, it is by no means inexhaustive – not least because this is an active, innovative and lively research area. The articles included here are divided broadly by time period with the first section (Freeman et al, 2013 to Barnes and Newton, 2018) focusing on the early modern period to the 19th century, the second (Edwards and Webb, 1982 to Game et al, 2020) on the first half of the 20th century and the third (Roberts, 1992 to Kay, 2019) considering developments from the 1950s to the present. Context is key in understanding the historical events that unfolded. The socio-economic mores of the time influenced how actors behaved; how they interpreted and reacted to what took place. In other words, the past is understood here on its own terms and without conflating it with the present. Indeed, there is good reason for this collection to follow such an approach. While enterprises have always traded multinationally across a variety of jurisdictions and through different legal systems, the size of businesses has changed over the course of these centuries. The growth of large-scale corporations has brought about changes in the structure of socio-economic relations, a separation between share ownership and control, an increasingly impersonal relationship between employer and worker, and substantial inequalities in wealth, information and power. As business and society changed, different regulatory issues came to the fore and so take centre stage at different points of time.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages467
JournalBusiness History
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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