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Information management in business, libraries and British military intelligence: towards a history of information management

Alistair Black (School of Information Management, Leeds Metropolitan University, Beckett Park, Leeds LS6 3QS)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 October 1999



This study explores, historically, that definition of information management (IM) which centres on the ordering and channelling of non‐publicly available information within organisations. Whereas IM as a discipline is relatively new, as an activity within modern organisations it has a long history. Three types of organisation are highlighted: the business corporation, the library and the state agency (specifically, British military intelligence). Sophisticated information systems in organisations are a core feature of modernity and can be traced back to the revolution in state administration in the nineteenth century and to the emergence of large corporations from about 1880 onwards. At about the same time, libraries too evolved systematic, internal information flows and regimes, often of a standardised nature dictated by library management theorists. Evidence from the government sphere is also presented: considerable space is given in the study to the role played by IM in the early years of MI5, Britain‘s counter‐espionage and counter‐insurgency military intelligence agency. Documents recently released by the Public Record Office, covering the first decade of MI5’s history between 1909 and 1919, point to a growing recognition of the importance of IM. In conclusion, a case will be made for the construction of a new subject field of ‘Information Management History’ which will enrich, particularly through potentially exciting research pathways, not just the established fields of business and administrative history but also the emergent discipline of IM itself.



Black, A. (1999), "Information management in business, libraries and British military intelligence: towards a history of information management", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 55 No. 4, pp. 361-374.




Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited

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