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Solvay
History of a Multinational Family Firm

$99.00 (C)

  • Date Published: January 2013
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107024809

$99.00 (C)
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About the Authors
  • Ernest Solvay, philanthropist and organizer of the world-famous Solvay conferences on physics, discovered a profitable way of making soda ash in 1861. Together with a handful of associates, he laid the foundations of the Solvay company, which successfully branched out to other chemicals, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. Since its emergence in 1863, Solvay has maintained world leadership in the production of soda ash. This is the first scholarly book on the history of the Solvay company, which was one of the earliest chemical multinationals and today is among the world's twenty largest chemical companies. It is also one of the largest companies in the field to preserve its family character. The authors analyze the company's 150-year history (1863–2013) from economic, political, and social perspectives, showing the enormous impact geopolitical events had on the company and the recent consequences of global competition.

    • First scholarly history of this major chemical company
    • Includes in-depth analysis of the interaction between global politics (world wars) and business
    • Long-term analysis of the changing character of a family firm
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “This is perhaps the most important European corporate history to be published this century. We knew about Ernest Solvay the philanthropist and the role of his company in the complex of European cartels from other histories, but for the first time we now have a highly professional account from the inside of a company that was the earliest and largest European chemical multinational, yet that remained a successful and well-managed family partnership until its public flotation on the Brussels stock exchange in 1967 and further global expansion and diversification as a public joint stock company.” – Professor Leslie Hannah, University of Tokyo

    “Solvay: History of a Multinational Family Firm is a thoroughly researched history of a leading chemical company that deserves to be better known outside Belgium. One of its strengths is the way that all the various facets of Solvay’s business (structure, strategy, marketing, technology) are constantly addressed throughout the volume. This is an excellent history of Solvay that will be of great interest to both business historians and historians of chemistry.” – Peter Morris, Science Museum, London

    “This scholarly book is the commanding study of one of the largest and oldest chemical enterprises in the world. The well-known authors explain to us Solvay’s longevity, challenges, stress, and success. All major aspects of a dynamic enterprise, such as management, technological change, finances, competition, role of the founding family, and even touching sponsorship, are convincingly addressed. While the previous Solvay book lasted for 50 years, this one – based on its excellent quality – will outlive it! – Harm G. Schröter, Professor of Economic History, University of Bergen, Norway, and President of European Business History Association

    “With the publication of this book, an extraordinary instance of scholarly neglect has finally been put right, and in grand style. Based on a vast array of primary evidence, the authors provide a full and multifaceted account of the Solvay company, one of the most long-lived and successful chemical firms in history. The evolving business strategies of this family multinational, its technological development, and its social initiatives are all examined closely, as are the personalities and family dynamics that have shaped its long history.” – Raymond G. Stokes, University of Glasgow

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107024809
    • length: 650 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 156 x 40 mm
    • weight: 1.17kg
    • contains: 48 b/w illus. 2 maps 39 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Pioneering Years (1863–1914): The Quest for a Leadership and the First Stages of the Internationalization:
    1. First steps: when vision and reality meet
    2. A multinational pioneer
    3. Reaching a dominant position
    4. Labor organization, social policy, and societal vision
    5. The consolidation of power
    6. Conclusion of Part I
    Part II. The Years of Crisis (1914–50): The Making and Unmaking of International Alliances:
    7. The multiple fronts of World War One
    8. From ashes, 1918–22
    9. The making of international alliances
    10. Family and finance through the crisis
    11. The electrolytic industry
    12. Facing war again
    13. Solvay's second post-war
    14. Conclusion of Part II
    Part III. The Era of Diversification and Globalization (1950–2012):
    15. Growth through diversification: the successful entry into plastics and peroxides
    16. Enlarging scale and scope: backward and forward integration in the 1960s and 1970s
    17. Solvay goes public: financial and organizational limits of a family firm
    18. The long and winding road to Deer Park: Solvay's return to the United States
    19. From bulk to brains: Solvay's entry into pharmacy and the life sciences
    20. Solvay in the age of globalization
    21. Towards sustainable product-leadership
    22. Chemical and plastics of the future: major turning points at the start of a new century
    23. Conclusion of Part III.

  • Authors

    Kenneth Bertrams, National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium
    Kenneth Bertrams is Research Fellow at the National Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium and Lecturer in History at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium.

    Nicolas Coupain, Solvay S.A.
    Nicolas Coupain is Historian and Scientific Advisor at Solvay S. A.

    Ernst Homburg, Universiteit Maastricht, Netherlands
    Ernst Homburg is Professor of History of Science and Technology at Maastricht University, The Netherlands.

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