International varieties of capitalism

The case of Western Europe

Authored by: Keetie Sluyterman , Gerarda Westerhuis

The Routledge Companion to Business History

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415855563
eBook ISBN: 9780203736036
Adobe ISBN: 9781135007836


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In the section on international varieties of capitalism, our chapter deals with Western Europe. This is a fairly loose concept, but it stands for a number of countries that were relatively prosperous thanks to international trading since the sixteenth century, and pioneered an industrial way of producing from the late eighteenth century onwards. Together these countries were dominant in the world economy until their role was taken over by the United States and the Soviet Union during the twentieth century. In this chapter on Western Europe the focus is inevitably on the large countries, Britain, France and Germany, but we also include the Mediterranean countries, Italy, Portugal and Spain, as well as the small countries, especially Belgium and the Netherlands. Obviously, we won’t be able to discuss the business history of every one of the eight countries separately. Instead we will focus on three debates, on how (most of) these countries figured in those debates and on how business historians contributed to these debates. Debates tend to concentrate on countries being ahead or behind in their industrial development or economic growth more generally, on companies as first movers or slow starters and on processes of convergence versus persisting varieties. In this way, we intend to show common features in those three critical debates and at the same time highlight important business developments in Western Europe from the nineteenth century onwards.

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