My current research examines the history of corporate social responsibility and market morality from the early modern period to the present day.
The History of Corporate Reputation and Responsibility
My work on corporate reputation and responsibility reconstructs public expectations of corporate conduct from the early modern period to the present day.
Have corporations been historically expected to be "socially responsible"? How have these expectations changed over time and why? I recently published a post at the Oxford Business Law Blog on this topic.
These questions are also explored in a volume of essays by leading business historians that I have co-edited with William Pettigrew. The book will be available shortly from Palgrave MacMillan (2017)
The "social life of the corporation" is a way of thinking about the changing social expectations of corporate conduct over time. This approach shifts the perspective from the firm to the expectations of the larger society in which companies operate. My research develops a model to understand this dynamic and its change over time. I apply this model in an article at William and Mary Quarterly on the early history of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Market Morality and its History
I am also exploring ideas of market morality or how market society generates its own moral frameworks. For example, how do people think about fairness in the market over time? My research examines the historical concept of "fair trade," exploring how people have insisted that traders play by the same rules in the markets. Two new articles, on eighteenth century brandy smuggling and the coming of general incorporation with limited liability in England in 1855, will explore this "market morality."
Why was the Hudson's Bay Company Attacked in 1749?
Radical Business: Business and the Contest over Social Norms
The attack on the Hudson's Bay Company in 1749 reveals insights into how people thought about corporations and their responsibilities to early modern society.
Palgrave has now published a volume of collected essays on the history of corporations and their social obligations