The relationship between nation states and the companies based in their respective territories is often ambiguous. Companies provide employment and they pay taxes, they contribute to national income and frequently to “national identity” (Disney, Dior, Daimler). Companies and businessmen engage in bilateral and international diplomacy, e.g. as door-openers for new relationships of the West to the Soviet Union in the 1950s or to China in the late 1970s. At other times, companies supported national policies of war and crimes against humanity.
The histories of Chrysler, Krupp, or Rolls-Royce – to name just a few examples – pro-vide abundant evidence of embeddedness and dependence on state capacity. Time and again, even companies describing themselves as multi- or trans-national seem to appreciate the security net of a nation state with its government and constituency of taxpayers, who act as lenders of last resort. In times of financial crisis there is no dearth of companies that claim to be citizens of a nation state for the sake of access to the respective state’s resources. At the same time the modern state has developed towards a ‘competition state’ acting like a company in a market of countries vying for investments. Nation states brand themselves; they try to attract customers and to ser-vice international markets.
The Centre for Business History was established in 1999 with the objective to strengthen the historical dimension in CBS research and teaching.
Today, it consists of 14 people (nine permanent contract, two PhDs, three Assistant Prof. and PostDocs) that share a keen interest in the way history contributes to a better understanding of society and business. As historians at a business university, we focus on business in society. We do this in the broadest possible sense and with an ideal of openness with respect to theoretical approaches and topics.
The Centre is an integrated part of CBS of its research and teaching infrastructure, and, by its international peers, the Centre is regarded as an experimenting and creative major research environment.