Researching 20th Century Quaker Business History
The Quakers & Business Group (Q&B), a recognised interest group within BYM and also a registered charity, has launched a research project. The project's goal is to research Quaker business history in the 20th Century, so as to seek lessons from it to apply in the 21st Century business world.
Quaker economic and business history has been researched up to about the end of the First World War. Emden, Raistrick, Kennedy, Walvin, Milligan, Elliott, Chapman-Huston & Cripps, and others have explored the 19th Century and earlier Quaker business and economic experience and contribution. A number of studies set partly or wholly within the 20th Century have been completed and published, (by Deborah Cadbury & others) but no comprehensive study of the post First World War period has yet been attempted.
Q&B's proposal is designed to make a first attempt at filling the space. The overall project goal is to establish how we can promote Quaker business ethics, values and purpose in the twenty-first century, by learning from Friends business, economic and concomitant social experiences in the twentieth century. The project outline is:
In the early nineteenth century, 4,000 Quaker families ran 74 Quaker banks and more than 200 Quaker companies. Straight dealing, careful record keeping, fair play, honesty, paying their taxes due on the transactions in question within the jurisdictions where substantively they occurred, accuracy and truth in all things formed the basis of Quaker capitalism.
Just as important as their business ethics and values was their vision that the purpose of wealth creation was for the benefit of the workers, the local community, society at large - as well as for the entrepreneurs – ie themselves.
The influence and spread of Quakerism in business began a slow decline in the second half of the 19th Century, with the arrival into UK and USA law of the joint-stock company with limited liability, and subsequently as Quaker businesses were sold by their family owners, or merged with other organisations. Scale and complexity led to professional managers replacing family members. Some of the original Quaker firms grew into global businesses, but Quaker start-ups failed to keep pace with those which exited. The 20th Century saw a continued decline in the number of truly Quaker businesses, and in the number of Quakers following business careers. In the early 21st century the symbolic takeover of Cadbury, in a hostile bid by Kraft, left only Clarks Shoes and Scott Bader (the chemicals company) amongst the few surviving medium to large Quaker, or substantively Quaker influenced businesses.
The Quakers & Business Group's (Q&B) purpose is to be the custodian, modern interpreter and promoter of Quaker principles in business and the work place. In order to fulfil this purpose, Q&B feels it is important to understand more fully what happened to Quaker, and Quaker influenced, businesses in the twentieth century, and why their numbers declined. Learning from this experience, Q&B wants also to understand how Quaker business ethics, values and purpose most effectively can be encouraged in British business today, in the light of contemporary trends in 21st Century capitalism.
20th Century Quaker business history has not yet been substantively researched and published, though a number of useful studies, often company focused, have been completed. Therefore Q&B is suggesting that an in depth academic study of Quaker business activity be conducted, in its context, for the period 1918 – 2009. A possible starting point might include reference to 1918 London Yearly Meeting’s publication of the eight Foundations of a True Social Order (QF&P 23.16), as well as the 1918 and subsequent decennial four Quaker Employers’ Conferences. A possible concluding point might be the hostile takeover of Cadbury by Kraft, and the subsequent impacts of that business change on the two companies at least, set within the wider financial crisis of the time.
The research project might be able to discern causes for the decline of Quakers’ engagement in business, coming both from within and beyond Quakerism. By studying the wider evolving economic, social, legal and business contexts of these trends amongst Friends, broader lessons may emerge about the recent history of capitalism. Such research work, will, we believe, provide strong foundations for recommendations and action on how to strengthen the Quaker contribution to business and its role in society in the 21st century. Applying such lessons will form the second part of this Project.
Q&B believe the best way to gain this understanding and knowledge as a sound foundation for action, is by commissioning a PhD thesis. The period covered would be from the 1918 Quaker Employers Conference through to the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft and the major debt crisis of 2008-9. The PhD thesis is supported by the Centre for Postgraduate Quaker Studies (CPQS) at Woodbrooke, which has agreed to provide academic supervision through its established PhD studies programme. CPQS will assist also with setting up opportunities for discussion and dissemination of the findings. Q&B, the Edward Cadbury Trust and the Friends Historical Society have already committed money support.
The cost of the PhD for the three year period is budgeted at £51,000. This sum is made up of £3,800 a year of fees, plus living costs of £13,000 each year. The modern PhD student is expected to spend at least thirty five hours per week studying. The proposed Project timetable now is planned as:-
|Approach sponsors for the remainder of the £51,000||- Dec '12- April '13|
|Advertise the PhD position||- April-May 2013|
|Appoint the successful PhD candidate||- June 2013|
|Start the PhD project||- October 2013|
|Finish the PhD project||- Summer 2016-17|
|Commence Part 2 of the Project||- Autumn 2016-17|
|Ensure wide dissemination and impact of findings||- Autumn 2016-17 & onwards|
Update on Funding as at June 2013
The £51,000 cost of the PhD, plus a small admin surplus, was raised successfully by June 2013. The funding has been generously provided by a combination of Quaker Trusts, Quaker Meetings and individual Friends. We would like to express our deepest thanks to all the funders, especially Edward Cadbury Trust, William Cadbury Trust, Friends Historical Society, Godric and Anne Bader.
Part 2 - Using the Findings
- Funding Interest in Part 2 of the Project, the dissemination and impact building phase, has been expressed by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. We will keep in touch with them.
- It is possible that outputs of the project might feed into a number of other Q&B projects, possibly including the Business trusteeship work, the Business Ethics work, and others unexpected at present.
- Further, its outputs might feed into other 100 year anniversary events run by other parts of the wider Quaker family, around the First World War's commemorations.
Winston Duguid & Timothy Phillips, Project Leaders, Quakers & Business Group, June 2013