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R. Daniel Wadhwani

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R. Daniel Wadhwani

Historical contextualization can be defined as the analysis or interpretation of past event(s), in relationship to their time and place, in ways that address a question or problem that arises in the present. This chapter describes the interpretive and analytical processes involved in historical contextualization and discusses their relevance in addressing particular topics within the domain of entrepreneurship scholarship. Specifically, it examines several elements in the design of historically contextualized research, including (a) the differences between scholarly and everyday historical contextualization, (b) the purposes historical contextualization serves, and (c) the interpretive or analytical processes involved, including periodization and the application of historical logics. It then shows how historical contextualization can be used to address several topics of concern to entrepreneurship scholars, including (a) the opportunity identification process, (b) the formation of entrepreneurial teams and networks, (c) the effects of institutions on entrepreneurship, and (d) the relationship between entrepreneurship and processes of economic change.

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R. Daniel Wadhwani

This chapter describes the use of historical methods in entrepreneurship research, including issues related to (a) data and sources, (b) interpretation and analysis, and (c) the form in which findings are presented. It places these methodological issues in the context of the opportunities and challenges that historical perspective offers in entrepreneurship research. The chapter argues that an understanding of historical methods, and particularly how these methods vary depending on the nature of the research questions and goals, is crucial for the development of historically contextualized research on entrepreneurship.

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William B. Gartner, Bruce T. Teague, Ted Baker and R. Daniel Wadhwani

This chapter explores this question: What was known about “opportunity” before scholars began treating it as the “distinctive domain of entrepreneurship” (Shane and Venkataraman, 2000)? The chapter focuses on uncovering and recognizing a significant amount of past scholarship on opportunity that we suggest has value for helping entrepreneurship scholars, now, re-conceptualize the idea of opportunity as well as reformulate and contextualize methods and situations for studying opportunity as an aspect of entrepreneurship. We suggest that the concept of opportunity, historically, is much richer and more nuanced than is recognized in current scholarship. Second, there is a strong foundation of prior scholarship on the nature of opportunity from the strategic management area (e.g. Dutton and Jackson, 1987; Jackson and Dutton, 1988) that laid a strong foundation for any subsequent pursuit of opportunity as a subject of scholarship. Third, the idea of opportunity as a primary characteristic of entrepreneurship appears to have been first proposed by Stevenson (1983), and his subsequent work has, essentially, been ignored. We suggest that an ignorance of prior thought, theory and evidence has been detrimental to subsequent theory building and empirical research on the importance of opportunity as an idea that has value for understanding the nature of entrepreneurship. We offer some suggestions for how this prior research and theory might be fruitfully integrated into current scholarship on opportunity. Finally, we offer some thoughts for how a historical approach to entrepreneurship scholarship might be useful for informing the development of theory and practice.