Skip to main content

Reframing the Past: Thoughts about Business Leadership and Decision Making under Uncertainty


How do business leaders make decisions in the face of uncertainty? More important, how do business and economic historians write a narrative that links a business problem, its proposed solution, and the outcome of this action without allowing the success or failure of the decision to determine the trajectory of the story? Counterfactual hypotheses and contextual analysis provide two tools that can help historians minimize the distortions of hindsight and recover a sense of the contingency that surrounds all decisions.

Hide All


Bailyn Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Mass., 1967.
Carlson W. Bernard. Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900. New York, 1991.
Chandler Alfred D., Jr. Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise. Cambridge, Mass., 1962.
Clarke Roger, and McGuinness Tony, eds. The Economics of the Firm. Oxford, U.K., 1987.
Fishlow Albert. American Railroads and the Transformation of the Antebellum Economy. Cambridge, Mass., 1965.
Fogel Robert William.Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History. Baltimore, Md., 1964.
Galambos Louis, with Sewell Jane Eliot. Networks of Innovation: Vaccine Development at Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and Mulford, 1895-1995.New York, 1995.
Geertz Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York, 1973.
Greising David. I'd Like the World to Buy a Coke: The Life and Leadership of Roberto Goizueta. New York, 1998.
Haskell Thomas L.Objectivity Is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Schemes in History. Baltimore, Md., y1998.
Kirsch David A.The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History. New Brunswick, N.J., 2000.
Kwolek-Folland Angel. Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930. Baltimore, Md., 1994.
Nelson Richard R., and Sidney G. Winter . An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. Cambridge, Mass., 1982.
Piore Michael J., and Sabel Charle F.. The Second Industrial Divide: Possi-bilities for Prosperity. New York, 1984.
Pocock J. G. A.The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton, N.J., 1975.
Pocock J. G. A. Politics, Language and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History. New York, 1971.
Scranton Philip. Endless Novelty: Specialty Production and American Industrialization, 1865-1925. Princeton, N.J., 1997.
Scranton Philip. Proprietary Capitalism: The Textile Manufacture at Philadelphia, 1800-1885. New York, 1983.
Searle John R.Rationalityin Action. Cambridge, Mass., 2001.
Simon Herbert A.Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations. 3d ed., 1945; New York, 1976.
Simon Herbert A.. An Empirically Based Microeconomics. Cambridge, Mass., 1997.
Simon Herbert A.. Models of Man: Mathematical Essays on Rational Human Behavior in a Social Setting. New York, 1957.
Sloan Alfred P., Jr. My Years with General Motors. Garden City, N.Y., 1972.
Temin Peter. Taking Your Medicine: Drug Regulation in the United States. Cambridge, Mass., 1980.
Williamson Oliver E.The Economic Institutions of Capitalism. New York, 1985.
Yates JoAnne. Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management. Baltimore, Md., 1993.

Articles and Essays

Alchian Armen A.Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory.Journal of Political Economy 58 (June 1950): 211–21.
Appleby Joyce. “One Good Turn Deserves Another: Moving beyond the Linguistic; A Response to David Harlan.American Historical Review 94 (Dec. 1989): 132632.
Carlson W. Bernard. “The Coordination of Business Organization and Technological Innovation with the Firm: A Case Study of the Thomson-Houstan Electric Company in the 1880s.” In Coordination and Information: Historical Perspectives on the Organization of Enterprise, ed. Naomi R. and Raff Danie M. G.. Chicago, 1995, pp. 5577.
Harold Demsetz. “Rationality, Evolution, and Acquisitiveness.Economic Inquiry 34 (July 1996): 484–95.
Fischhoff Baruch. “Hindsight ≠ Foresight: The Effect of Outcome Knowledge on Judgment Under Uncertainty.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 1 (Aug. 1975): 288–99.
Fischhoff Baruch, and Beyth Ruth. “'I Knew It Would Happen': Remembered Probabilities of Once-Future Things.Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 13 (Feb. 1975): 116.
Hacker Louis M.The New Revolution in Economic History: A Review Article Based on Railroads and Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History by Robert William Fogel.Explorations in Entrepreneurial History 3 (Spring 1966): 166–69.
Harlan David. “Intellectual History and the Return of Literature.American Historical Review 94 (June 1989): 581609.
Heuer Richards J., Jr. “Cognitive Biases: Problems in Hindsight Analysis.” In Inside CIA's Private World: Classified Articles from the Agency's Internal Journal, 1955-1992, ed. Westerfield H. Bradford. New Haven, Conn., 1995, pp. 333–43.
Hollis Martin, and Sugden Rober. “Rationality in Action.Mind 102 (Jan. 1993): 135.
Holmstrom Bengt R., and Tirole Jean. “The Theory of the Firm.” In Handbook of Industrial Organization, ed. Schmalensee R. and Willig R. D., 2 vols. Amsterdam, 1989, vol. 1, 61133.
Hounshell David A.Assets, Organizations, Strategies, and Traditions: Organizational Capabilities and Constraints in the Remaking of Ford Motor Company, 1946-1962.” In Learning by Doing in Markets, Firms, and Countries, ed. Lamoreaux Naomi R., Daniel M. G. Raff, and Temin Pete. Chicago, 1999, pp. 185208.
Hounshell David A.. “Ford Automates: Technology and Organization in Theory and Prac-tice.Business and Economic History 24 (1995): 5971.
Jensen Michael C., and Meckling William H.. “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure.Journal of Financial Economics 3 (Oct. 1976): 305–60.
Kahneman Daniel, and Tversky Amo. “Choices, Values, and Frames.American Psychologist 39 (April 1984): 341–50.
Kahneman Daniel, and Tversky Amo. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk.Economet-rica 47 (March 1979): 263–91.
Machina Mark J.Choice Under Uncertainty: Problems Solved and Unsolved.Journal of Economic Perspectives 1 (Summer 1987): 141–47.
Meyer John R., and Conrad Alfred H.. “Economic Theory, Statistical Inference, and Economic History.Journal of Economic History 17 (Dec. 1957): 524–44.
Raff Daniel M. G., and Temin Pete. “Sears, Roebuck in the Twentieth Century: Competition, Complementarities, and the Problem of Wasting Assets.” In Learning by Doing in Markets, Firms, and Countries, ed. Lamoreaux Naomi R., Raff Daniel M. G., and Temin Peter. Chicago, 1999, pp. 219–48.
Redlich Fritz. “‘New’ and Traditional Approaches to Economic History and Their Interdependence.Journal of Economic History 25 (Dec. 1965): 480–95.
Simon Herbert A.Rational Decision Making in Business Organizations.American Economic Review 69 (Sept. 1979): 493513.
Simon Herbert A.. “Rationality in Psychology and Economics.Journal of Business 59 (Oct. 1986): S20924.
Skinner Quentin. “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas.” In Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics, ed. Tully James. Princeton, N.J., 1988, pp. 6364.
Temin Peter. “Modes of Behavior.Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 1 (June 1980): 175–95.
Tuck Richard. “History of Political Thought.” In New Perspectives on Historical Writing, ed. Burke Pete. University Park, Pa., 1992, pp. 193205.
Tully James. “The Pen is a Mighty Sword: Quentin Skinner's Analysis of Politics.” In Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and His Critics, ed. Tully James. Princeton, N.J., 1988, pp. 725.
Tversky Amos, and Kahneman Danie. “The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice.Science 211 (31 Jan. 1981): 453–58.
Zeitlin Jonathan. “Reconciling Automation and Flexibility? Technology and Production in the Postwar British Motor Vehicle Industry.Enterprise & Society 1 (March 2000): 962.

Newspapers and Magazines

Financial Times. 1997-1999.
Newsletter of the Cliometric Society. 1992-1993.

Reference Works

Oxford English Dictionary Online. URL: .
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. URL: .

Unpublished Sources

Galambos Louis, and Sturchio Jeffrey L.. “Sustaining Innovation: Critical Transitions at Merck & Co., Inc.
Hounshell David A.Why Corporations Don't Learn Continuously: Waves of Innovation and Desperation at Ford Motor Company, 1903-1996.”
Usselman Steven W.Making Waves in the Computer Business: Critical Transitions at IBM.”
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Enterprise & Society
  • ISSN: 1467-2227
  • EISSN: 1467-2235
  • URL: /core/journals/enterprise-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 5 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 172 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 14th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.