Business History in Latin America: The Experience of Seven Countries

By Carlos Dávila; Rory Miller et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Business History in Chile
1850–1945
Luis Ortega

Business history is one of many areas in which Chilean historiography provides evidence of its limited development. In general terms, this situation is explained by two factors. First, this is a relatively new field of research within the discipline. It has evolved in conditions of great difficulty, and is therefore weak in institutional terms. The second factor goes beyond the sphere of historiography, and has more to do with the dominant trends in the economic and social development of the country. From 1927 until 1974 the state was the principal actor in the economic arena. It is only in the last twenty years that the business elite has begun to occupy a central role in Chilean life. Only then did businessmen, as a group, discover the need to become an object of historical study in themselves, and some historians found them to be an attractive topic, even though not an essential one.

A review of the economic historiography of Chile confirms the fact that the history of business has been a marginal component in the development of the subject. However, such an analysis also enables us to gain a better understanding of the vicissitudes and determinants of the historical research which has taken place on the business elite.


The economic historiography of Chile and the history of the
business elite

Despite a relative decline in the study of economic history during the last decade, due fundamentally to the immense boom which has occurred in the study of social history, the subject has experienced a significant, if limited, advance since the early 1960s. As a consequence, our knowledge of the process of economic development in Chile is not only much broader, but it has also become firmly established on more solid foundations.

This academic development was made possible by a number of different phenomena. The economic evolution that Chile experienced between 1940 and the mid-1970s stimulated, from the very beginning, a series of questions which were quickly picked up by specialists, not only from the field of

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