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Marketing the past over the long run: uses of the past in French accounting textbooks, 17th-19th c.

Pierre Labardin (DRM MOST, Université Paris-Dauphine, Université PSL, CNRS, Paris, France)
Pierre Gervais (CREW EA, Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, France)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 11 October 2021

Issue publication date: 26 January 2022




A growing share of the literature in the fields of marketing and organizational theory is focusing on the uses of the past. This paper aims to propose an analysis of these uses over the long run and concludes that these uses of the past may themselves be historicized.


The paper uses accounting textbooks published in French from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. This study uses historical and organizational literature to account for observed variations.


Two conceptualizations of the past can be found in the sources from the period studied, depending on the period one considers, each of them leading to a different marketing strategy. In the first one, the past is presented as providing most or even all the value of what is offered in the present, as past experience serves as a stepping stone to a better product. The second conception breaks with these mostly positive views and presents the past as a dangerous routine, from which one must be freed to innovate.


Studying marketing uses of the past over the long run allows us to identify a limited set of possible sales pitches using the past to promote work and to identify the constraints orienting these pitches at any given time.



Authors thank the two anonymous referees for their very useful comments and suggestions. They also want to thank the two editors of the special issue, Hélène Gorge and Nil Özçağlar-Toulouse for their great support.


Labardin, P. and Gervais, P. (2022), "Marketing the past over the long run: uses of the past in French accounting textbooks, 17th-19th c.", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 90-110.



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