Handbook of Research on Management and Organizational History
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Handbook of Research on Management and Organizational History

Edited by Kyle Bruce

Emerging from what was a somewhat staid sub-discipline, there is currently a battle for the soul of Management and Organizational History (MOH), at the centre of which is a widespread concern that much recent work has been more about how one should or might do history rather than actually doing historical work. If ever there was a time for a new volume on MOH, this is certainly it.
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Chapter 7: From West Point to points west: the French absolutist roots of the American industrial corporation

Richard Marens


While it is generally acknowledged that the giant American corporation was, in part, a product of capitalist relations inherited from Britain, scholars too often overlook the crucial role of the American military in making continent-spanning firms possible. Because the American army was politically limited in size, yet still tasked with removing natives and defending settlers over a vast region, West Point-trained officers learned to overcome these limits by following the pioneering efforts of French absolutist regimes in improving weapons technology and infrastructural engineering. As a result, the American army raised the efficiency and quality of manufacturing in ways that would become the basis of civilian mass production. Simultaneously, the infrastructural improvements the army generated in fighting the Indian wars spurred the development of transportation and communication systems necessary for creating a continent-spanning market capable of supporting a population of giant firms.

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