The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement

Project: Research council

Project Details


The literature on inter-war British industrial management has been extremely critical, presenting firms as bring conservative in organisational terms, with only a small number of progressive ones (Hannah 1983). Similarly, other observers have emphasized the grip of tradition on British business culture (Wilson 1995: Wilson and Thomson 2006). Despite these views, we know there was a growing core of British Management thought (Urwick 1956, Child 1969, Bech et al 2010) and a large number of firms employing management consultants (Ferguson 2002). In this context. Quaker employers led by Cadbury and Rowntree led the way with three significant innovations. These were: i. Conferences of Quaker employers (Cadbury conferences) ii. A series of lectures (Rowntree lectures) to enable employers and employees to explore the management challenges facing industry iii. The establishment of Management Research Group movement by Rowntree The initiatives led by Rowntree have received rather limited attention with mainly a focus on their structure rather than content (Bech et al 2010; Wilson and Thomson 2006). Our project aims to examine these innovations in greater depth thereby contributing to a clearer understanding of the evolution of British management theory and practice in the inter-war period. It will do so within the context of ideas of knowledge transfer and the importance of communities of practice as represented by the creation of the Management Research Groups. In addition it will create a valuable resource for other researchers in the form of a digitised version of the material.
Effective start/end date1/07/1630/06/19

Collaborative partners


  • Economic and Social Research Council


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