The Changing Role of Consultants in Industry, 1850–2000
Workshop at the Maison Française d’Oxford, 2-10 Norham Road, Oxford OX2 6SE, United Kingdom
10-11 May 2019
Submission deadline for proposals: 7 December 2018
While historians have explored the role of R&D in industrial progress, consultants as a specialist professional group are largely neglected. With few exceptions, only passing reference is made to their background and training, the circumstances of their engagement, the nature of the work and its success. Outside business consultancy, there has been little exploration of the range of consultancy work across different sectors of industry and within different time periods. Yet it is clear that consultants were often a key resource in knowledge management for firms, especially in emerging sectors making the transition from craft-based traditions to use of scientific knowledge. As the modern corporation arose during the late 19th century, firms faced a growing problem of managing knowledge. They set up in-house laboratories and began to develop R&D programmes. But, at the same time, consultants played a key role in spreading new technologies across firms, improving operating practices within factories, establishing standards and helping develop key supply industries.
This workshop will address these issues in the context of various industrial sectors across Europe and in the United States, and attempt to establish evidence on who the consultants were, the market for consultants and their impact.
The workshop will be based on pre-circulated papers, approx. 5,000 words, with deadline of 30 March 2019. A selection of workshop contributions will be published in an edited volume.
Please send proposals (max 300 words) and a short CV by 7 December to: [email protected]
The workshop is supported by grants from the British Society for the History of Science, the Newcomen Society, Oxford Brookes University and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.