Author: Nancy F. Koehn
Publisher: Harvard Business Press – 432 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

This book presents news stories from the business pages of The New York Times spanning a century and a half from 1851 to 2001. It is a chronicle of American business itself, as no other United States daily newspaper has reported as well as the Times itself, with  perhaps the exception of The Wall Street Journal.

There are three parts to this history of, with nine chapters. The stories are not presented chronologically, but rather by theme and subject matter.  

Part I is entitled The Corporation; Part II is the Changing Nature of Work; and Part III is Defining Moments in Technology. Within Part I are four chapters, namely: The Rise of Big Business; Wall Street; Merger Mania; and Leadership, Past and Present.

In Part II, you will find chapters with stories on Farm to Factory; The Fruits of Our Labor; and The Changing Workplace.

Part III has two chapters. Chapter 8 is The Transportation Revolution and chapter 9 is Communications.

After a short Epilogue the Appendix contains a Timeline of events, followed by Notes, an Index, and an About the Author.

There are some photos in this book, but we were expecting to see a lot more of them within its 400-plus pages. We believe in “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Among the historical highlights covered in this book are the following:

  1. The rise of the modern American corporation – for example, Carnegie Steel, International Business Machines and Procter & Gamble
  2. The birth of Wall Street and its evolution into the American seat of stock exchanges and financial power
  3. Business leaders including heads of corporations, major national entrepreneurs and investors
  4. Milestone events in American business history such as the beginning of mass production, the transition to a service economy, and the information revolution
  5. The rise of the consumer economy and its explosive growth over the decades
  6. Economic crises and corporate scandals and how they changed the public perception of American business
  7. The central role of business in American society and how it has dramatically changed the way we work and live
  8. The increasing influence of female customers and the growth of the power of American women in business
  9. Technological innovations that have transformed our way of living, including the railroad, the jet plane, the personal computer, the Internet, mobile communications devices, and more.

This is a great book on the history of American business by Nancy F. Koehn compiled from the pages of The New York Times, one of the world’s most authoritative and respected newspapers.

Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School. She is the James E. Robin Chair of Business Administration at that institution.