Readings on the history of corporations

See also the readings on capitalism. For decades "corporation" has been used in the U.S. literature as a catch-all for "large firm," regardless whether actually incorporated. These studies deal specifically with the corporation as a distinctive legal form or with the incorporation process, though the dividing line between the two pages is at times indistinct. The readings are organized chronologically and will be updated now and then (see Latest Additions below); last revised 12-Aug-2013 22:43.

Latest additions

John C. Coffee, Jr. "The Rise of Dispersed Ownership: The Roles of Law and the State in the Separation of Ownership and Control." Yale Law Journal 111 (2001): 1-82.

Moss, David A. When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002 - ch. 3, "Limited Liability."

Cheffins, Brian R. Corporate Ownership and Control: British Business Transformed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Hilt, Eric. "When Did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century." Journal of Economic History 68 (September 2008): 645-685.

Musacchio, Aldo. Experiments in Financial Democracy: Corporate Governance and Financial Development in Brazil, 1882-1950. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Fear, Jeffrey, and Christopher Kobrak. "Banks on Boards: German and American Corporate Governance, 1870-1914." Business History Review 84 (Winter 2010): 703-736.

Johnson, Paul. Making the Market: Victorian Origins of Corporate Capitalism. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Lipartito, Kenneth, and Morii, Yumiko. "Rethinking the Separation of Ownership from Management in American History." Seattle University Law Review 33 (2010): 1025-1063.

Campbell, Gareth, and John D. Turner. "Substitutes for Legal Protection: Corporate Governance and Dividends in Victorian Britain." Economic History Review 64 (2011): 571-597.


Williston, Samuel. "History of the Law of Business Corporations before 1800." Harvard Law Review 2, no. 3 (1888): 105-124; and no. 4 (1888): 149-166.

Davis, John P. Corporations: A Study of the Origin and Development of Great Business Combinations and of Their Relation to the Authority of the State. 2 vols. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's sons, 1905.

Dewing, Arthur S. Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914. Has chapters on specific companies or consolidations.

Davis, Joseph Stancliffe. Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations. Harvard Economic Studies XVI, Nos. 1-4. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1917.

Berle, Adolph, and Gardiner Means. The Modern Corporation and Private Property. New York: Macmillan Company, 1932.

Handlin, Oscar, and Mary F. Handlin. "Origins of the American Business Corporation." Journal of Economic History 5, no. 1 (May 1945): 1-23.

Drucker, Peter F. Concept of the Corporation. New York: The John Day Company, 1946. Plus subsequent editions through 1983.

Evans, George Heberton, Jr. Business Incorporations in the United States, 1800-1943. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 1948.

Dodd, Edwin Merrick. American Business Corporations Until 1860: With Special Reference to Massachusetts. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954.

Kuehnl, George J. The Wisconsin Business Corporation. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1959.

Hurst, James Willard. The Legitimacy of the Business Corporation in the Law of the United States, 1780-1970. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970.

Sherman, Dennis. "Governmental Policy Toward Joint-Stock Business Organizations in Mid-Nineteenth Century France." Journal of European Economic History 3 (1974): 149-68.

Brandes, Stuart D. American Welfare Capitalism, 1880-1940. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Hannah, Leslie. The Rise of the Corporate Economy: The British Experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

Jefferys, James B. Business Organisation in Great Britain, 1856-1914. Dissertations in European Economic History. New York: Arno Press, 1977.

McCurdy, Charles W. "American Law and the Marketing Structure of the Large Corporation, 1875-1890." Journal of Economic History 38, no. 3 (September 1978): 631-49.

Freedeman, Charles E. Joint-stock Enterprise in France, 1807-1867: From Privileged Company to Modern Corporation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Horn, Norbert, and Jürgen Kocka, editors. Recht und Entwicklung der Großunternehmen Im 19. und Frühen 20. Jahrhundert: Wirtschafts-, Sozial- und Rechtshistorische Untersuchungen zur Industrialisierung in Deutschland, Frankreich, England und den USA (= Law and the Formation of Big Enterprises in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries: Studies in the History of Industrialization in Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979. Some essays are in English.

Lefebvre-Teillard, Anne. "L'intervention de l'État dans la constitution des sociétés anonymes (1807-1867)." Revue Historique de Droit Français 59, no. 3 (1981): 383-418.

Seavoy, Ronald E. The Origins of the American Business Corporation, 1784-1855. Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1982.

Hartog, Hendrik. Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870. Ithaca and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

Atack, Jeremy. "Industrial Structure and the Emergence of the Modern Industrial Corporation." Explorations in Economic History 22 (1985): 29-52.

Lefebvre-Teillard, Anne. La Société Anonyme au XIXe siècle: du Code de Commerce à la loi de 1867, histoire d'un instrument juridique du développement capitaliste. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985.

Gunn, L. Ray. The Decline of Authority: Public Economic Policy and Political Development in New York State, 1800-1860. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Sklar, Martin J. The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, 1890-1916: The Market, the Law, and Politics. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Fligstein, Neil. The Transformation of Corporate Control. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Hovenkamp, Herbert. Enterprise and American Law, 1836-1937. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Freedeman, Charles E. The Triumph of Corporate Capitalism in France, 1867-1914. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1993.

Grandy, Christopher. New Jersey and the Fiscal Origins of Modern American Corporation Law. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1993.

Maier, Pauline. "The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation." William and Mary Quarterly 3d ser., vol. 50 (1993): 51-84.

Kwolek-Folland, Angel. Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Roe, Mark. Strong Managers, Weak Owners: The Political Roots of American Corporate Finance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Bowman, Scott R. The Modern Corporation and American Political Thought: Law, Power, and Ideology. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania University Press, 1996.

Kaysen, Carl, ed. The American Corporation Today. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Baskin, Jonathan Barron, and Paul J Miranti. A History of Corporate Finance. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Roy, William G. Socializing Capital: The Rise of the Large Industrial Corporation in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Alborn, Timothy L. Conceiving Companies: Joint-stock Politics in Victorian England. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

Banner, Stuart. Anglo-American Securities Regulation: Cultural and Political Roots, 1690-1860. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Carruthers, Bruce G., and Terrence C. Halliday. Rescuing Business: The Making of Corporate Bankruptcy Law in England and the United States. Clarendon, 1998.

Hamill, Susan Pace. "The Origins Behind the Limited Liability Company." Ohio State Law Journal 59, no. 5 (1998): 1459-1522.

Hopt, Klaus J., Hideki Kanda, Mark J. Roe, Eddy Wymeersch, and Stefan Prigge, eds. Comparative Corporate Governance: The State of the Art and Emerging Research. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Includes my essay, "Corporate Governance in Late 19th-Century Europe and the U.S.: The Case of Shareholder Voting Rights." In Comparative Corporate Governance: The State of the Art and Emerging Research, 5-39.

Dunlavy, Colleen A. . "Corporate Democracy: Stockholder Voting Rights in Nineteenth-Century American and Prussian Railroad Corporations." In Institutions in the Transport and Communication Industries: State and Private Actors in the Making of Institutional Patterns, 1850-1990, 33-60. Edited by Lena Andersson-Skog and Olle Krantz. Canton, Mass.: Science History Publications, 1999.

Hamill, Susan Pace. "From Special Privilege to General Utility: A Continuation of Willard Hurst's Study of Corporations." American University Law Review 49, no. 1 (1999): 81-180.

Harris, Ron. Industrializing English Law: Entrepreneurship and Business Organization, 1720-1844. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Mark, Gregory A. "The Role of the State in Corporate Law Formation." International Corporate Law Annual 1 (2000): 1-16.

Micklethwait, John and Adrian Wooldridge. The Company : A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

Lipartito, Kenneth, and David B Sicilia, eds. Constructing Corporate America: History, Politics, Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Includes my essay: Dunlavy, Colleen A. "From Citizens to Plutocrats: Nineteenth-Century Shareholder Voting Rights and Theories of the Corporation," 66-93.

Wright, Robert E., Wray Barber, Matthew Crafton, and Anand Jain, eds. History of Corporate Governance: The Importance of Stakeholder Activism. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2004.

Dunlavy, Colleen A. . "Social Conceptions of the Corporation: Insights from the History of Shareholder Voting Rights." Washington and Lee Law Review, vol. 63, no. 4 (2006): 1347-1388.

Pearson, Robin, James Taylor, and Mark Freeman, eds. The History of the Company: The Development of the Business Corporation, 1700-1914. 8 vols. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006.

Taylor, James. Creating Capitalism: Joint-Stock Enterprise in British Politics and Culture 1800-1870, Royal Historical Society Studies in History, New Series V. 53. London: Royal Historical Society, 2006.

Guinnane, Timothy W., Ron Harris, Naomi R. Lamoreaux, and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal. "Putting the Corporation in Its Place." Enterprise & Society 8, no. 3 (2007): 687-729.

Hannah, Leslie. "The 'Divorce' of Ownership from Control from 1900 Onwards: Re-Calibrating Imagined Global Trends." Business History 49, no. 4 (2007): 404-438.

Schocket, Andrew M. Founding Corporate Power in Early National Philadelphia. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007.

Schrauwers, Albert. "Revolutions Without a Revolutionary Moment: Joint Stock Democracy & the Transition to Capitalism in Upper Canada." Canadian Historical Review 89, no. 2 (June 2008): 223-225.

Acheson, Graeme G., Charles R. Hickson, John D. Turner and Qing Ye. "Rule Britannia! British Stock Market Returns, 1825-1870." Journal of Economic History 69, no. 4 (2009): 1107-1137.

Wright, Robert E. and Richard Sylla. "Corporate Governance and Stockholder/Stakeholder Activism in the United States, 1790-1860." In Origins of Shareholder Advocacy, edited by Jonathan G. S. Koppell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Freeman, Mark, Robin Pearson, and James Taylor. Shareholder Democracies? Corporate Governance in Britain and Ireland before 1850. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Foreman-Peck, James, and Leslie Hannah. "Extreme Divorce: The Managerial Revolution in UK Companies before 1914." Economic History Review 65, no. 4 (2012): 1217-1238.

Wright, Robert E. "Capitalism and the Rise of the Corporation Nation." In Capitalism Takes Command: The Social Transformation of Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Michael Zakim and Gary J. Kornblith, 145-168. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Bruner, Christopher M. Corporate Governance in the Common-Law World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Ciepley, David. "Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation." American Political Science Review 107, no. 01 (2013): 139-158.