Developing critical organizational history: context, practice, and implications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


External organisations

  • Saint Mary's University
  • Mount Saint Vincent University


Historical research now has a relatively high profile in organization studies, and organization theories are better represented in business history, thanks to increased interdisciplinary dialogue over the last decade. It might therefore be that the ‘historic turn’ has materialized in organization studies, and that business history has become significantly more conceptual in nature. We argue, however, that in terms of the original definition of the historic turn, as a rejection of scientism, acceptance of more heterogeneous forms of history, and reflexive accounts of the social construction of historicized narratives, there has been little progress. We revisit the idea of the turn in depth here, to examine the ways of doing history that might encourage a more substantial turn towards theory and towards history as a means of developing it. In particular, we suggest that an approach we term ‘critical organizational history’ remains underdeveloped, as a theoretically informed historicized approach to understanding how and why we come to be where we are in contemporary organized societies. Our aim is to take stock of the historic turn’s progress, reminding critically oriented organizational scholars and practitioners of organizational history of the importance of completing the turn with the underlying purpose of critique. To do this, we surface seven aspects of practice and three implications of them that demonstrate the underside of theorizing historically that we suggest are central to critical analysis. Understood and practised collectively, these could provoke considerable more critical organizational history to the benefit of all.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Early online date24 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Oct 2019


  • critical management studies, historiography, organization and management history