Business History at Utrecht University

Business History at Utrecht University focuses on the historical development of companies and entrepreneurs in their institutional context. As part of Economic and Social History (ESH) business history links to the central debate on the question why some countries are poor and others are rich. What is the role of business in economic growth and prosperity? Business History at UU is therefore closely related to the Centre for Global Economic History (CGEH), the platform of the UU for pioneering research into the long term evolution of the world economy and its components. Business history is also an important part of the Commissioned Research group, which conducts research for third parties. This research often focuses on individual companies or sectors in their relationship to society. From these two perspectives business historians in Utrecht find their strength in the interaction between the scientific debate and individual case studies.

Chair in Business History

Our group is headed by Keetie Sluyterman. She is professor of business history at Utrecht University and a specialist in Dutch business history of the nineteenth and twentieth century.


The website wants to unite researchers at UU interested in business history. Business history studies firms and entrepreneurs in their political, economic and societal context. Because of its multidisciplinary character researchers are spread over various UU departments. By bringing together those researchers, we want to strengthen our academic knowledge and research in the field of business history by new insights and by the use of new theories and methods.

Main research projects

Business History at UU is involved in several research projects. In 2010 we started with the BEAT project, which compares European and Asian business systems. We established important international partnerships to conduct the research.

The BEAT project can be seen as a follow-up of the BINT project, which has the development and competitiveness of the Dutch business system in the 20th century as its main focus. The project, started in 2002, is about to finish and will result in 7 thematical volumes.

One of the BINT volumes analyses the corporate governance and financing of Dutch business. For this volume we collected, in close cooperation with Erasmus University, financial and corporate governance data for all listed Dutch firms in the 20th century. The project thus results not only in a BINT volume, but also in an useful dataset.

Another project is a truly international one, involving researchers from fourteen different countries. It analyses national corporate networks in a long term perspective and results in an edited volume published by Routledge (forthcoming in 2013).

Bram Bouwens and Keetie Sluyterman started a large commissioned research project about the history of Heineken in 2011. It will be finished in 2014, when Heineken celebrates its 150 years anniversary.

Gerarda Westerhuis was awarded a VENI grant from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct research on the origins of a banking crisis. This research project will start April 2013.