In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Management History

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • The Importance of History
  • Developments
  • Trends

Management Management History
David D. Van Fleet
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0008


Although management and attempts to improve it are as old as civilization, the systematic study of management is only just more than one hundred years old. “Management history” refers primarily to the history of management thought as it has developed during that time, although some work covers the practice of management all the way back to Antiquity. Because the events, organizations, economic and social conditions, and even interested scholars are frequently the same, management history overlaps to some extent with related history fields, most notably business history, economic history, and accounting history. Management history utilizes the tools and methods of traditional historical analysis as well as drawing insights from business disciplines and the social sciences. This article includes, first, initial coverage of source material (introductory works, reference sources, and journals), and then presents reasons why history is important and provides a rough chronological presentation of major works for those interested in learning more about management history, from the early practice of management to the evolution of management thought as it has developed during the past one-hundred-plus years.

Introductory Works

Some early management books are available online so that students and other scholars can read them in the original form, including Taylor 2010 (cited under Scientific Management and Frederick Taylor), Sheldon 1924 (cited under Organization Theory), and Gilbreth 2010 (cited under Other Contributors to Scientific Management). Many early articles on management may be found in Miner 1995 and Bedeian 2011. Wren and Bedeian 2008 is the most important management history book, and it is the one most widely used as a primary source in courses on management history. George 1972, though an older work, is sometimes also recommended.

  • Bedeian, Arthur G., ed. The Evolution of Management Thought: Critical Perspectives on Business and Management. 4 vols. London: Routledge, 2011.

    More than one hundred articles covering more than a century of management literature; a must-read for any serious student of management history.

  • George, Claude S., Jr. The History of Management Thought. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972.

    A short, older overview of the development of management thinking that is still useful for the author’s insights.

  • Miner, John B., ed. Administrative and Management Theory. Aldershot, UK: Dartmouth, 1995.

    Numerous articles spanning more than seventy-five years are collected here. Readers get an intimate feel for the evolution of management theory through reading these original articles.

  • Wren, Daniel A., and Arthur G. Bedeian. The Evolution of Management Thought. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.

    A highly readable summary of major milestones in the development of management thought. Presented within the context of the times, the stories of major figures in the field are told.

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