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On the history of corporations

For decades, "corporation" has been used in the U.S. literature as a catch-all for "large firm" or "big business," regardless whether the firm was actually incorporated (see Creating corporations). Although the dividing line can be fuzzy, the works included on this page generally deal with the corporation as a distinctive legal form or with the process of creating such an entity (incorporation).

    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.
    Falkner, Roland P. "Statistics of Private Corporations." Publications of the American Statistical Association 2, no. 10 (June 1890): 50-67.
    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.
    Passow, Richard. Die wirtschaftliche Bedeutung und Organisation der Aktiengesellschaft. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 1907.
    Dewing, Arthur S. Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914. Has chapters on specific companies or consolidations.
    Davis, Joseph Stancliffe. Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1917.
    Dewey, John. "The Historic Background of Corporate Legal Personality." Yale Law Journal 35, no. 6 (April 1926): 655-673.
    Berle, Adolph, and Gardiner Means. The Modern Corporation and Private Property. New York: Macmillan Company, 1932.
    Blandi, Joseph G. Maryland Business Corporations, 1783-1852. Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science. Vol. 52, 1934.
    Hunt, Bishop Carleton. The Development of the Business Corporation in England, 1800-1867. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936.
    Bösselmann, Kurt. Die Entwicklung des deutschen Aktienwesens im 19. Jahrhundert: Ein Beitrag zur Frage der Finanzierung gemeinwirtschaftlicher Unternehmungen und zu den Reformen des Aktienrechts. Berlin: W. de Gruyter & Co., 1939.
    Kessler, W. C. "A Statistical Study of the New York General Incorporation Act of 1811." Journal of Political Economy 48, no. 6 (1940): 877-882.
    Miller, William. "A Note on the History of Business Corporations in Pennsylvania, 1800-1860." Quarterly Journal of Economics 55, no. 1 (November 1940): 150-160.
    Handlin, Oscar, and Mary F. Handlin. "Origins of the American Business Corporation." Journal of Economic History 5, no. 1 (May 1945): 1-23.
    Dorfman, Joseph. The Economic Mind in American Civilization. 5 vols. New York: Viking Press, 1946-1959.
    Drucker, Peter F. Concept of the Corporation. New York: The John Day Company, 1946 (and 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.
    Kessler, William C. "Incorporation in New England: A Statistical Study, 1800-1875." Journal of Economic History 8, no. 1 (May 1948): 43-62.
    Cadman, John W., Jr. The Corporation in New Jersey: Business and Politics, 1791-1875. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949.
    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.
    Bell, Daniel. "The Corporation and Society in the 1970s." National Affairs, no. 24 (Summer 1971): 5-32.
    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.
    Hannah, Leslie. The Rise of the Corporate Economy: The British Experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976 (2nd ed., Metheun, 1983).
    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 and 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. On New York corporations.
    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.
    Mark, Gregory A. "The Personification of the Business Corporation in American law." University of Chicago Law Review 54 (1987): 1441-1483.
    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.
    Michie, Ranald. “Different in Name Only? The London Stock Exchange and Foreign Bourses, c.1850-1914.” Business History 30, no. 1 (January 1988): 46-68.
    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.
    Mark, Gregory A. "Some Observations on Writing the Legal History of the Corporation in the Age of Theory." In Progressive Corporate Law, edited by Lawrence E. Mitchell, 67-92. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.
    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., et al., eds. Comparative Corporate Governance: The State of the Art and Emerging Research. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
    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.
    Coffee, John C., 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."
    Kessler, Amalia. "Limited Liability in Context: Lessons from the French Origins of the American Limited Partnership." Journal of Legal Studies 32, no. 2 (2003): 511-548.
    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: Colleen A. Dunlavy, "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 and Chatto, 2004.
    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 and Chatto, 2006.
    Taylor, James. Creating Capitalism: Joint-Stock Enterprise in British Politics and Culture 1800-1870, London: Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press, 2006.
    Guinnane, Timothy W., et al. "Putting the Corporation in Its Place." Enterprise and 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.
    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.
    Schrauwers, Albert. "Revolutions Without a Revolutionary Moment: Joint Stock Democracy and the Transition to Capitalism in Upper Canada." Canadian Historical Review 89, no. 2 (June 2008): 223-225.
    Wells, Harwell. "The Rise of the Close Corporation and the Making of Corporation Law." Berkeley Business Law Journal 5 (Fall 2008): 263-316.
    Acheson, Graeme G., et al. "Rule Britannia! British Stock Market Returns, 1825-1870." Journal of Economic History 69, no. 4 (2009): 1107-1137.
    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, no. 4 (2010): 1025-1063.
    Wells, Harwell. "The Birth of Corporate Governance." Seattle University Law Review 33, no. 4 (2010): 1247-1292.
    Campbell, Gareth, and John D. Turner. "Substitutes for Legal Protection: Corporate Governance and Dividends in Victorian Britain." Economic History Review 64 (2011): 571-597.
    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, 231-251. 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.
    Hautcoeur, Pierre-Cyrille, and Angelo Riva. "The Paris Financial Market in the Nineteenth Century: Complementarities and Competition in Microstructures." Economic History Review 65, no. 4 (2012): 1326-1353.
    Hilt, Eric, and Jacqueline Valentine. "Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth, and Politics in New York, 1791–1826." Journal of Economic History 72, no. 02 (2012): 332-363.
    Rutterford, Janette. "The Shareholder Voice: British and American Accents, 1890-1965." Enterprise and Society 13, no. 1 (March 2012): 120-153.
    Sylla, Richard, and Robert E. Wright. "The Largest Industries and Companies Before 1860." Financial History, no. 103 (Summer 2012): 21-25, 38-39.
    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.
    Braggion, Fabio, and Lyndon Moore. "How Insiders Traded Before Rules." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 562-581.
    Bruner, Christopher M. Corporate Governance in the Common-Law World: The Political Foundations of Shareholder Power. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
    Cheffins, Brian R., Steven A. Bank, and Harwell Wells. "Questioning ‘Law and Finance’: US Stock Market Development, 1930–70." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 598-616.
    Cheffins, Brian R., Dmitri K. Koustas, and David Chambers. "Ownership Dispersion and the London Stock Exchange's ‘Two-Thirds Rule’: An Empirical Test." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 667-690.
    Ciepley, David. "Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation." American Political Science Review 107, no. 01 (2013): 139-158.
    Ciepley, David. "Neither Persons nor Associations." Journal of Law and Courts 1, no. 2 (Fall 2013): 221-246.
    Foreman-Peck, James, and Leslie Hannah. "Some Consequences of the Early Twentieth-Century British Divorce of Ownership from Control." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 540-561.
    Freeman, Mark, Robin Pearson, and James Taylor. "Law, Politics and the Governance of English and Scottish Joint-Stock Companies, 1600–1850." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 633-649.
    Gomory, Ralph, and Richard Sylla. "The American Corporation." Daedalus 142, no. 2 (Spring 2013): 102-118.
    Hilt, Eric. "Shareholder Voting Rights in Early American Corporations." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 617-632.
    Musacchio, Aldo, and John D. Turner. "Does the Law and Finance Hypothesis Pass the Test of History?" Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 521-539.
    Pargendler, Mariana, and Henry Hansmann. "A New View of Shareholder Voting in the Nineteenth Century: Evidence from Brazil, England and France." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 582-597.
    Sylla, Richard, and Robert E. Wright. "Corporation Formation in the Antebellum United States in Comparative Context." Business History 55, no. 4 (June 2013): 650-666.
    Wells, Harwell. "'Corporation Law is Dead': Heroic Managerialism, Legal Change, and the Puzzle of Corporation Law at the Height of the American Century." University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 15, no. 2 (Winter 2013): 305-356.
    Wright, Robert. Corporation Nation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.
    Bodenhorn, Howard. "Voting Rights, Share Concentration, and Leverage at Nineteenth-Century U.S. Banks." Journal of Law and Economics 57 (May 2014): 431-458.
    Hannah, Leslie. "Corporations in the US and Europe 1790-1860." Business History 56, no. 6 (2014): 865-899.
    Hansmann, Henry, and Mariana Pargendler. "The Evolution of Shareholder Voting Rights: Separation of Ownership and Consumption." Yale Law Journal 123, no. 4 (January 2014): 948-1013.
    Hilt, Eric. "History of American Corporate Governance: Law, Institutions, and Politics." Annual Review of Financial Economics 6 (2014): 1-21.
    Liu, Li. "Income Taxation and Business Incorporation: Evidence from the Early Twentieth Century." National Tax Journal 67, no. 2 (June 2014): 387-418.
    Acheson, Graeme G., et al. "Corporate Ownership and Control in Victorian Britain." Economic History Review 68, no. 3 (2015): 911-936.
    Aldous, Michael. "Avoiding Negligence and Profusion: The Failure of the Joint-Stock Form in the Anglo-Indian Tea Trade, 1840-1870." Enterprise and Society 16, no. 3 (2015): 648-685.
    Blair, Margaret M., and Elizabeth Pollman. "The Derivative Nature of Corporate Constitutional Rights." William and Mary Law Review 56, no. 5 (April 2015): 1673-1743.
    Dallas, Lynne and Jordan Barry. "Long-Term Shareholders and Time-Phased Voting." Delaware Journal of Corporate Law 541 (2015); San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 15-194. Available at SSRN:
    Hannah, Leslie. "A Global Corporate Census: Publicly Traded and Close Companies in 1910." Economic History Review 68, no. 2 (2015): 548-573.
    Hilt, Eric. "Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts." In Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, edited by William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
    Horesh, Niv. "Gerschenkron Redux? Analysing New Evidence on Joint-Stock Enterprise in Pre-War Shanghai." Asian-Pacific Economic Literature 29, no. 1 (May 2015): 25-46.
    Hutchison, Camden. "The Historical Origins of the Debt-Equity Distinction." Florida Tax Review 18, no. 3 (2015): 95-152.
    Lamoreaux, Naomi. "Revisiting American Exceptionalism: Democracy and the Regulation of Corporate Governance: The Case of Nineteenth-Century Pennsylvania in Comparative Context." In Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, edited by William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.
    Oliver, Peter. "Companies and Their Fundamental Rights: A Comparative Perspective." International and Comparative Law Quarterly 64, no. 3 (July 2015): 661-696.
    Wells, Harwell. "A Long View of Shareholder Power: From the Antebellum Corporation to the Twenty-First Century." Florida Law Review 67, no. 3 (May 2015): 1033-1098.
    Pollman, Elizabeth. "Constitutionalizing Corporate Law." Vanderbilt Law Review 69, no. 3 (April 2016): 639-693.
    Baars, Grietje, and Andre Spicer, eds. The Corporation: A Critical, Multi-Disciplinary Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
    Strine, Jr., Leo E., and Nicholas Walter. "Originalist or Original: The Difficulties of Reconciling Citizens United with Corporate Law History." Notre Dame Law Review 91, no. 3 (March 2016): 877-934.
    Frydman, Carola, and Eric Hilt. "Investment Banks as Corporate Monitors in the Early Twentieth Century United States." American Economic Review 107, no. 7 (July 2017): 1938-1970.
    Gerner-Beuerle, Carsten. "Law and Finance in Emerging Economies: Germany and Britain 1800-1913." Modern Law Review 80, no. 2 (2017): 263-298.
    Guinnane, Timothy W., Ron Harris, and Naomi R. Lamoreaux. "Contractual Freedom and Corporate Government in Britain in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries." Business History Review 91 (Summer 2017): 227-277.
    Howell, Jason W. "The Survival of the U.S. Dual Class Share Structure." Journal of Corporate Finance 44 (2017): 440-450.
    Hutchison, Camden. "Progressive Era Conceptions of the Corporation and the Failure of the Federal Chartering Movement." Columbia Business Law Review, no. 3 (2017): 1017-1099.
    Lamoreaux, Naomi, and William J. Novak, eds. Corporations and American Democracy. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 2017.
    Hutchison, Camden. "Corporate Law Federalism in Historical Context: Comparing Canada and the United States." McGill Law Journal 64, no. 1 (September 2018): 109-166.
    Wells, Harwell. Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2018.
    Winkler, Adam. We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights. New York: W. W. Norton/Liveright Publishing, 2018.
    Tenth annual Berle symposium (essays on Berle and Means' The Modern Corporation). Seattle University Law Review 42, no. 2 (Winter 2019).
    Hannah, Leslie. "Corporate Governance, Accounting Transparency and Stock Exchange Sizes in Germany, Japan and 'Anglo-Saxon' Economies, 1870-1950." Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte 64, no. 2 (2019): 157-186.
    Kay, John. "The Concept of the Corporation." Business History 61, no. 7 (October 2019): 1129-1143.
    Harris, Ron, and Naomi R. Lamoreaux. "Opening the Black Box of the Common-Law Legal Regime: Contrasts in the Development of Corporate Law in Britain and the United States in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries." Business History 61, no. 7 (October 2019): 1199-1221.
    Hutchison, Camden. "The Patriation of Canadian Corporate Law." University of Toronto Law Journal 70, no. 2 (Spring 2020): 107-136.