The History of the Multinational Enterprise

Mira Wilkins

in The Oxford Handbook of International Business

Second edition

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199234257
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

The History of the Multinational Enterprise

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  • Business and Management
  • Business History
  • International Business



This article discusses the vast literature focusing on the historical evolution of multinational businesses. A broad consensus prevails among most students of the history of multinational enterprise that the modern multinational dates from the mid or late nineteenth century — that it is in fact a post-industrial revolution phenomenon. Only with steamships, railroads, and cables was it possible for managers to exercise control over business operations across borders in a meaningful manner. Transportation and communication revolutions were prerequisites for the existence of effective coordination within an individual firm. Over the years, however, this consensus has been challenged. Indeed, for decades it has been recognized that certain aspects of the modern multinational enterprise have had a long history. The research on pre-industrial age multinational enterprise adds new insights into the nature and history of this most important organization.

Keywords: multinational enterprise; business operations; transportation; industrial age; industrial revolution; managers

Article.  17005 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Business History ; International Business

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