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Crafting management history

Robert Grattan (University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 11 April 2008




Management history is written for various reasons, such as describing company developments and the growth of the theories of management, and is part of the generic historical approach. There are, however, some specific problems associated with the writing of management history and this paper aims to address both general historiography and the particular application of management history.


The paper adopts the metaphor of crafting, as in the potter at his wheel, to emphasise the need for empathy with material from the past and the skill required for converting that raw data into and analytical and meaningful account. Various factors to be considered in this process are discussed.


The paper finds that, the metaphor can be sustained and is a valuable concept for those embarking on management historiography.

Practical implications

The need for sympathy with the period in question and for the material to hand is suggested as a necessary outlook for the management historian. Their task is not scientific, in that laws are unlikely to emerge in this complex and multi‐faceted field, but painstaking crafting is an art that will lead to the writing of better management histories.


The paper collects general advice from eminent historians and suggests a particular approach for the management historian. The aim is to encourage the writing of management histories that can contribute to our knowledge of the past but also can form the basis for further hypotheses and insights in the field of management.



Grattan, R. (2008), "Crafting management history", Journal of Management History, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 174-183.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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