Sub-theme 08: (SWG) The Handling of History: Methods and Theories

Lars Engwall
Dept. of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
Michael Rowlinson
Queen Mary University of London, UK
R. Daniel Wadhwani
Eberhardt School of Business, Pacific University, USA

Call for Papers

The Standing Working Group (SWG) "Historical Perspectives in Organization Studies" tries to respond to a growing call for a renewal in the way we study organizations and organizational fields and aims to explore and expand the potential that a historical perspective – understood in the broadest possible sense – might have in this respect. Building on two earlier EGOS Colloquia in Gothenburg (2011) and in Helsinki (2012) this particular sub-theme hopes to stimulate a discussion on (a) methodological issues in work that takes a historical approach to organizational analyses, and (b) how a historical perspective may help in developing and refining theorizing on organizations. In both cases, we like to see mainly empirically grounded contributions to the sub-theme, which also address one or both of these issues. In addition, we will consider papers that explicitly reflect on possible methodological approaches and/or the relationship between theory and evidence in historical studies of organizations and organizational fields. Overall, it is our hope to bring together researchers from a wide range of backgrounds and foment dialogue among them. Those who have attended our sessions in the past will know that we always reserve significant space for discussions.



One of the major differences between publications in history and management is the extent to which data and methods need to be explained, with the former assuming an implicit shared understanding, while the latter require a detailed presentation and discussion. Here, we are therefore looking for papers that make explicit the way they have collected, analysed and presented historical sources, drawing on extant methodological approaches both in history (which are more extensive than widely believed) and management (which include qualitative, case-based and interpretivist studies). On the basis of the papers we would like to address two key issues in the discussions: (a) what kind of questions about organizations and organizational fields might best be answered using historical data and methodologies and (b) and how these historical studies should be conducted and presented in order to conform to established standards in management and the social sciences in general.



Similarly, we are looking for papers that demonstrate and stimulate discussion regarding the way historical studies of organizations or organizational fields can contribute to theorizing in organizational studies, either by questioning and extending extant theories or by developing new theoretical insights based on comparative or even single case studies. The basic question for the discussion once again is what kind of theories might be best suited for historical studies, including among many others, those addressing path dependencies, foundation conditions, life cycles and all those addressing change in organizations and fields and their underlying drivers.


Lars Engwall is Professor of Business Administration at Uppsala University since 1981. His research has been directed towards the development of industries and organizations as well as the creation and diffusion of management knowledge. Among his publications related to the sub-theme can be mentioned "Mercury Meets Minerva" (2009/1992), "Management Consulting" (2002, ed. with Matthias Kipping), "The Expansion of Management Knowledge" (2002, ed. with Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson), and "Reconfiguring Knowledge Production" (2010, with Richard Whitley and Jochen Gläser).
Michael Rowlinson is Professor of Organization Studies in the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary University of London. He edits the journal 'Management & Organizational History' and is the co-editor for a forthcoming special issue of 'Organization' on "Narratives and Memory in Organizations", as well as the forthcoming Special Topic Forum of the 'Academy of Management Review' on "History and Organization Studies: Toward a Creative Synthesis".
R. Daniel Wadhwani is Associate Professor of Management and Fletcher Jones Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of the Pacific. His research focuses on the areas of entrepreneurship and business history. He has co-edited (with Geoffrey Jones) the two-volume series "Entrepreneurship and Global Capitalism" (2006), which examines the role of entrepreneurial activity in international economic integration over the last century and a half. He is presently co-editing a book, to be published by Oxford University Press, on the role of historical research and reasoning in organization studies.