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Stephen Cummings and Todd Bridgman

Adam Smith is often listed as a pioneer in management history in management textbooks. However, his treatment is generally limited to a few sentences about a pin factory and how his ‘classic economics treatise’ promoted the division of labour, which then required a gradual continuity of increasing control of workers that would be administered by a growing class of professional managers. But looking again at Smith reveals a very different view of the role he could have played in conceptualizing management. Smith’s intellectual innovations were not the promotion of laissez faire economics and the division of labour, but the view that slavery and other forms of repression were wrong: ethically, fundamentally, but also economically. Taking this as a foundation enables us to look again at the historical relationship between management and slavery and to see a break, or discontinuity, between them, rather than continuity of approach and a subsequent silence and denial of the relationship.