Seebohm Rowntree and the British interwar management movement

Mairi Maclean, Gareth Shaw, Alan Booth

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British interwar management has been criticised as overly conservative, comprising a small core of progressive firms amongst conservatively-run, family-dominated businesses. According to this critique, British firms displayed little interest in new managerial approaches, unlike US firms of the period. Our research into the Rowntree lectures and the British interwar management movement challenges this view. We argue that there was a nucleus of progressive British firms engaged in management learning through organized peer-to-peer communication, facilitated by lectures and Management Research Groups (MRGs) initiated by Seebohm Rowntree; fostering communities of practice designed to share management knowledge and experience. We suggest that British managers displayed greater openness to innovation and a willingness to confront shared problems than is recognised. We offer a provisional reinterpretation of British management practice that repositions business education relative to extant historiography; thereby contributing to a better-informed understanding of the evolution of British management learning in the interwar years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationElgar Handbook of Research on Organizational History
EditorsKyle Bruce
Place of PublicationCheltenham, UK
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978 1 78811 849 1
ISBN (Print)978 1 78811 848 4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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