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A First-Ever “Business History Day” at Telfer

Scholars explored “why history matters” in the context of business studies on March 4, drawing an audience of 50 to Telfer, including professors, students, entrepreneurs, and civil servants.

“History offers abundant lessons for future business leaders,” noted Professor Cheryl S. McWatters, the organizer of ‘Business History Day’ at Telfer. “Clear parallels can be found between past and present, in the challenges that confronted business people of bygone eras, and in the complex systems they developed to respond to those challenges.”

McWatters, the Father Edgar Thivierge Chair in Business History, chaired a panel discussion focusing on developments in business history research and teaching and panellist Laurence B. Mussio captured a recurring theme in the discussion when he stated that students, when given the opportunity to engage with history, invariably discover “an important and sophisticated tool” to understand business. “People are responding to this call because they know instinctively that in business decision-making, understanding the economic, social, political and cultural context of the day matters.”

The event’s keynote speaker, Professor Geoffrey G. Jones of Harvard Business School, examined the history of green entrepreneurship in a global setting. While working and often struggling at the margins of mainstream business, Dr. Jones noted, green entrepreneurs in the past nonetheless demonstrated “an impressive record of early identification of issues, radical rethinking of accepted wisdom, and a stubborn search for solutions and innovations.”

The Thivierge Chair in collaboration with the Accounting History Review and the Canadian Enterprise History Network/Réseau canadien d’histoire brought the following distinguished scholars together:

  • Geoffrey G. Jones, Isidor Straus Professor of Business History at Harvard Business School and Faculty Chair of the School’s Business History Initiative
  • Matthias Kipping, Professor of Policy and Chair in Business History, Schulich School of Business, York University
  • Laurent Tissot, professeur en histoire contemporaine, Institut d’histoire, Université de Neuchâtel
  • Laurence B. Mussio, Historian, Bank of Montreal Financial Group, Toronto, and Adjunct professor, Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia, McMaster University and Syracuse University.