This authoritative research review focuses on the rise of modern firms, from their early history to the present day. It considers the role of laws and contracts in shaping the growth and influence of business enterprises. It presents entrepreneurs, executives and the firms they controlled as driving actors in national economies and international growth. The authors have selected work by scholars who have used corporate archives to explore the fine details of how firms actually operated. They also include work by those who have been influenced by evolutionary, transaction-cost and resource-based theories of the firm.