The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective

The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective

The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective

The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective


Management has always been part of human organization, but it is only in the last two centuries or so that it has been the central driver of economic activity, as companies have moved from family firms to hugely complex, multinational corporations with many layers of management. The term management is commonly used in three ways: as a process or activity; as a structure in any organization; and as a group or class of people carrying out certain roles in an organization. This book is the first detailed account of the evolution of management in all three senses. The focus ismainly on the UK, but throughout the broader question of why corporate management structures developed so impressively in the USA, Germany and Japan is borne in mind, while arguably little progress was made in this regards in the UK. Equally the authors consider why, given that management is now so widely studied, so little careful research has been undertaken into the evolution of the practice and the profession of management. The book is divided into four sections. Part One provides An Introduction to Management History; Part Two, Management and Organization, explores the historical development through the 19th and 20th centuries; Part Three, Managers in Context, looks at the social and cultural context of management andmangers; and Part Four considers three key functional areas, labour, marketing and accounting and financing. This rich, detailed, and path-breaking book will be essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of management as we now understand it, whether academics, students or managers themselves.


Since there is a dearth of literature in the specific area of management history, this book has been primarily created from tomes, articles, and monographs in a range of related fields. It would be pleasant to say that this has been complemented by a modicum of primary research based on the stories of managers, but regretfully, even if management is one of the most common and critical activities in the world, there are few of these available other than the occasional autobiography or biography of a (chief executive officer) CEO. By far the best of the books available, Sidney Pollard's The Genesis of Modern Management (1965), only takes us up to 1830, considerably earlier than the period on which we focus. As Gospel (1983: 102), writing in a related field, has noted: 'Unfortunately we know little about the recruitment, numbers, and activities of these managers.' This lack of information is a key reason for the several limitations of the book which are acknowledged below.

While we would like to claim that this approach will provide an unprecedented coverage of British management history, it is unfortunately impossible to do full justice to its multidimensional nature in a book of this length. This is why we have chosen to limit our coverage to just three functional roles, while at the same time looking at the issues of production and the strategy requirements derived from it in Chapters 3 to 5. A second caveat is that the book focuses primarily on the manufacturing sector, in spite of the fact that the service sector has now become the dominant contributor to the modern economy. Moreover, in some respects the British service sector, perhaps especially retailing and the utilities, developed more advanced managerial systems at various periods of time than did their manufacturing counterparts. Yet manufacturing is where the main debates have been concentrated and where history has the greatest resonance. This is in large part because of the dominance of production issues in the development of thinking about management, starting with production and moving on to strategy and structure.

A third caveat is that the book concentrates on management in large companies, on the grounds that small business does not justify the use of complex management structures. As the owner-manager is still the dominant force in the small business sector, it is evident that small businesses can operate effectively in many parts of the economy, as indeed Chandler recognized (1977: 605–28). Moreover, there are obviously firms in the economy at various stages of complexity, ranging from the single-person operation through to the multidivisional multinational; each stage has different requirements of management structure, as well as the separation between ownership and control, which we cannot take fully into account.

A fourth limitation is our inability to deal in detail with all aspects of the external environment, especially such important issues as the relationships be-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.