BEAT Project

Europe vs Asia

The internationalization of markets during the last decades of the 20th century has been accompanied by major shifts in the composition of industry and division of labour in the western world, Asia and other parts of the world. Firms from countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and India increasingly sold their products abroad and extended their operations in foreign markets with structural implications for established companies in Europe. Leading European firms and industries lost their dominant position on the world market or even disappeared. The textile and steel industries were among those that had to drastically reorient themselves. The transition of the economies in Asia forced the European firms to adopt new strategies in order to survive the global competition.


Historical perspective

Business leaders, politicians and scholars all discuss the way in which European business should react to current challenges of economies in transition, and to the  lobalization process more generally. The relative decline of Europe in the world economy and the rise of Asian firms in many industries calls for a long-term comparative analysis of business in Europe and Asia. The project ‘Business in Europe and Asia during the 20th century: business systems and economic performance’ (BEAT) aims to contribute to the ongoing debates from a historical perspective. How did business in Europe and Asia develop during the 20th century and what kind of changes took place in the competitiveness of their respective industries. Can we relate changes in competitiveness and the composition of industry to the national business systems? How should we  understand the interactions between institutions, institutional change, national government policy and the internationalization of the firms?



To examine the global competitiveness of European and Asian industries and the impact of institutions during the 20th century in a comparable way, we propose to select four industry sectors. Shipbuilding and electro-technical industries represent the capital intensive industries, requiring substantial amount of capital for the production of goods. The textile industry represents the labor intensive industries. Finally, the banks will be studied as representatives of the service sector. For each of these industries representative countries in both Europe and Asia will be selected according to the importance of the specific industries. By comparing countries and industries we will explore diversity, interpret cultural and historical significance and advance our knowledge on global competitiveness.



The BEAT project involves partners in the UK, Japan and Germany. In the UK our partner is the Centre for Business History (University of Glasgow), which boasts a long tradition of pioneering research in business history. The prime objective of the Centre is to encourage, facilitate and conduct research in all aspects of business history, with particular emphasis on corporate governance, innovation and organizational change. Under its current chair and director, Professor Ray Stokes, CBH is international in scope, and plays an important part in the development of the discipline over a broad front. We also co-operate with Kyoto University in Japan, where Professor of economic history Takafumi Kurosawa has set up a dense network of East Asian business historians who co-operate in several research projects. This research group is very internationally oriented and its members participate in many conferences inside and outside Asia. Our third partner is the German Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte e.V. (GUG) in Frankfurt. This is an internationally recognized scientific institution for the promotion of research in business history. It brings together scientists from different German universities and representatives of German business and for that reason has a central position in business history in Germany.

Ray Stokes, Centre for Business History (University of Glasgow), Scotland

Takafumi Kurosawa, Graduate School of Economics (Kyoto University), Japan

Andrea Schneider, Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte e.V. (GUG), Frankfurt, Germany



With our international partners we organized and plan to organize various workshops:

21-22 March 2012: at the Research Institute for History and Culture, Utrecht University.

20-21 September 2012: at the Centre for Business History, University of Glasgow.

17-18 March 2013: at Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte e.V., Frankfurt.

21-25 September 2013: at the Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University.



Any queries about the BEAT project should be directed to Bram Bouwens: