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Baker News

march 2006

We create and manage the information and knowledge sharing experience in which Harvard Business School exchanges and uses information and knowledge assets.

Top Story

Historical Returns: Connecting the Past and Present

The new Historical Collections multimedia product Financial Bubbles begins in 1720 England where the South Sea Company is on the verge of a meteoric rise in its stock, riding a bubble of investor over-enthusiasm. Before the four-minute movie ends, we have seen deep parallels with the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, and have learned that such bubbles will likely come again. But now we might be better equipped to anticipate the next one.

Financial Bubbles explores some of the extraordinary similarities between the South Sea Bubble of 1720 and the recent technology bubble," explains Karen Bailey, who leads Baker's outreach program. "These similarities beg the question—what and how do we learn from the past? The purpose of this capsule is to encourage the exploration of these similarities as a catalyst to thinking about choices and behavior in bubble cycles."

Financial Bubbles is the first in a series of multimedia products under the title Historical Returns, which will use the deep resources of Baker Library's Historical Collections to connect the dots between today's business headlines and events and trends of the past.

The focal point of Financial Bubbles and future products in the series is a short movie that compares an event or idea from the past with a similar contemporary occurrence. Additional resources are also available, including an image gallery, reading list, and pointers to other resources at Harvard Business School. The material was chosen to provide an intelligent introduction to the topic rather than an in-depth scholarly exegesis.

The series is geared toward a general audience, and all resources are open to the public via the Internet.

Bailey says the Historical Returns project grew out of a reflection on the idea of "lessons" or cycles of the past. The more closely one looks at comparisons between past and present events, the complexities of context start to inform your understanding of the events. It's as useful to understand the dissimilarities in the comparisons as well as noting the connections. Topics are framed to encourage reflection and invite questions, rather than answer them.

Future series topics include business ethics and corporate governance, disruptive technology, and emerging global markets. "We are also exploring the idea of a 'Video Professor' resource in future capsules," Bailey continues, "where an expert on the topic can provide a short overview of one of the ideas explored in the capsule."

Supported by the de Gaspé Beaubien Family Endowment at Harvard Business School, the library's outreach program is able to develop resources like Historical Returns to inform a broader audience about the vitality and usefulness of the historical collections.

Spotlight on Historical Collections

Marquis Studies Evolution of U.S. Banking

Christopher Marquis, a sociologist who studies the development of the U.S. banking industry, arrived at HBS armed with banking statistics from all fifty states. But a crucial element for his research was lacking: written material to offer insights into why and how U.S. banking evolved as it did between 1896 and 2001.

That's when he discovered Baker Library's Historical Collections and its wealth of reports, debate minutes, and ephemera. Marquis, who began poring through Historical Collections only recently, is amazed at the wealth of material on paper and in microform to support his research.

"Thanks to this, I can work with micro-level data on activities, and make use of unguarded statements regarding the banks' positions on laws and their lobbying activities," says Marquis. "Historical Collections has reports, proceedings, and minutes from conferences of bankers at the state, regional, and national level. I am able to read the debate on various issues" and ultimately observe what he calls a circular co-evolution over time: laws clearly influenced the industry structure of banks, but banks also actively worked to influence the laws that governed them.

Marquis, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior unit, was trained in quantitative analysis. Baker's contribution to his research is written material on national and state-level meetings of bankers. "I have been able to quantitatively test my hypotheses, but the historical data is helping me ground the statistics by uncovering finer-grain discussions between bankers."

In his dissertation, Marquis studied how the banking industry changed considerably during the twentieth century. For most of the past hundred years, the majority of banks were small, local, and closely woven into community life. "Beginning in the 1980s, many of the earlier geographic constraints and restrictions on function began to fall. U.S. banks began to branch out nationally, and they developed into financial conglomerates. . . . The implications of these historical changes for the social role of banks have been a source of continuing controversy among sociologists," who ask whether banks wield a disproportionate amount of power in business and society—a topic very relevant for today.

How laws and banking interrelate is a rich area for further research, and Marquis, who feels lucky to make use of Historical Collections' resources, hopes that one day his work will result in a book.

Contact: Historical Collections

New Services and Products

Historical Board Analyst Data Available

Baker recently subscribed to historical Board Analyst data via WRDS for the years 2001-2005. (Our online subscription via the library homepage is just a current snapshot). Access is available to WRDS subscribers or authorized users of WRDS in the Financial Databases Room in Baker Library.

Information Mine

CCH Tax Research Network

What's in it? Current and historical documents and publications related to U.S. federal and state tax and international tax treaties. Includes news, legislation, cases and case reporters, and practice aids.

Who has access? HBS only (via intranet login), while on the HBS campus.

Where is it? Access via Baker Web site, linked under Databases—Complete Listing (A-Z).

Research example: This database is useful for finding information on the current interpretation of and practical application of laws on corporate income tax.

Research Tip

Tracking Companies in Capital IQ

Have a list of target companies you are following? Create a list of your favorites, save it, and use it repeatedly in Capital IQ. Call up your list instead of compiling the list each time you want to use it. Here's how.

  • From My Capital IQ tab > My Projects tab > create project. Name your project (e.g., your list of companies).
  • On Project Summary page > Targeting and Screening > Company Screening.
  • Select or modify your screening criteria > Add Criteria.
  • To use your list from the Analytics & Targeting tab > Screen Builder, select Target Lists under Coverage Management for the first criteria.
  • To use with Charting, Add companies by: Select companies from lists.
  • To use with Comparables, Select an existing project, followed by the desired criteria.
  • You can add and edit the list anytime.

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