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Family business and business history: An example of comparative research
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History, Uppsala Centre for Business History.
2014 (English)In: Business History, ISSN 0007-6791, E-ISSN 1743-7938, Vol. 56, no 1, 37-53 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper deals with one of the pillars of contemporary business history - the use of cross-national comparisons. Besides the longitudinal, the comparative perspective is a crucial dimension of business and economic history research. During the last decades several attempts have been made to illustrate the process of development and structuring of national markets and corporations both currently and in a historical perspective, through the use of a comparative method. This paper aims to point out the possibilities and problems with this approach. It especially highlights the role of institutional factors and changes as important determinants for national development and as obstacles for good comparative exercises. It also discusses the role of functional and coherent definitions in comparative research and the problems connected with data collection and analysis. The main research question is how cross-national comparisons can help us develop business history research further. A comparison between family firms in Italy and Sweden shows that the development of family business in these two countries exhibited extensive similarities during the early decades of the twentieth century. However after World War II the two countries became more diversified in terms of their industrial structure. While Swedish family firms became an important part of national big business, Italian family businesses developed into smaller and more flexible organisations. Thus, today in Sweden several family-owned and controlled firms are among the largest in the country, particularly in capital- and technology-intensive industries. Italian family firms, even if present among the largest in the country, are largely in industries other than high tech, and show a degree of organisational sophistication inferior to their Swedish counterparts. This paper discusses the driving forces behind this development, showing how the explicit use of the comparative, longitudinal approach can highlight the patterns of convergence and divergence across national business models.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 56, no 1, 37-53 p.
Keyword [en]
family business, comparative research, corporate governance, institutional arrangements, Sweden, Italy
National Category
Social Sciences Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-216033DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2013.818417ISI: 000328465800004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-216033DiVA: diva2:689303
Available from: 2014-01-20 Created: 2014-01-17 Last updated: 2014-01-20Bibliographically approved

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