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Spotlight on Historical Collections

Chandler Scholar Investigates History of Corporate Strategy

Published: 01/15/2006

When French professor Ludovic Cailluet came to HBS to investigate the history of corporate strategy practices, he quickly learned that Historical Collections could offer him more than access to its Historic Corporate Reports Collection.

During his three-month fellowship here, he pored through corporate reports as well as Baker Old Class books, HBS course catalogs, official registers of studies, faculty papers, student projects, and cases. He even viewed a one-of-a-kind Beta video of an HBS classroom lecture on careers for corporate planners, filmed in 1975.

Cailluet, a business historian who teaches strategy at the Graduate School of Management of Toulouse Social Sciences University, plans to coauthor a book with Oxford's Richard Whittington on the history of corporate strategy practices in France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. between the end of World War II and the present.

"I began by looking systematically at annual reports. Historical Collections has a diverse and important collection of annual reports. But I came to realize that the resource was not as exploitable as I had thought," he said, because users must apply precise search terms. Cailluet found it more efficient to supplement the corporate reports of companies such as General Electric and Norton with European and American companies' proxy statements, pamphlets, and other documents. He also began to learn more by browsing the array of books in Baker Old Class ("That was extremely valuable") and supplementing these materials with case studies.

That research led Cailluet to dive into a selection of processed and non-restricted faculty papers: interviews conducted for the preparation of case studies, correspondence, and consulting work. (Restrictions commonly exist for the HBS faculty collections.) The most useful was the archive of Kenneth R. Andrews (1916-2005), considered the father of corporate strategy, who was on the Harvard Business School faculty for forty years.

Asked how other users might exploit similar materials in Historical Collections, Cailluet said that oral historians, for instance, would be interested in HC's many interviews with practitioners. Another line of study was suggested to him by a recent HBS seminar by prominent historian Mary A. Yeager of UCLA. "She gave a very interesting talk on gender and the body in business history," he said. "These Historical Collections interviews, including those by Kenneth Andrews, always offer a physical description of the person being interviewed."

"There is more in this collection than just business history," he said.

Cailluet, who returned to Toulouse last month, was a fellowship recipient of the Alfred D. Chandler Jr., International Visiting Scholar in Business History Program.

Contact: Historical Collections


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