In line with the mission of the degree course in Economics and Business Administration (CLEGA), the course is aimed at learning concepts and methodologies with which to trace the evolution and progress of the modern company as a paradigm of the development of the various current forms of capitalism. Our analysis of business history intends to provide the tools necessary to comprehend the present phase of national and international economic development.

At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

- Understand the evolution of business structures and strategies in the contemporary age;

- Focus on the Italian business system in a comparative perspective;

- Communicate the acquired skills with clarity by using an appropriate language;

- Critically interpret facts and phenomena related to the business world;

- Applying analysis tools and acquired skills both to the other areas of Business studies and the professional field.
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Large, highly integrated companies are generally seen as the economic institutions that best represent the capitalist system: for this reason the main focus of the course will be to analyse the structure of these companies in different time periods. It is, nonetheless, worth remembering that the numerous economic structures and competitive conditions that have arisen over time in the West have led to the appearance of a variety of different types of enterprises. With this in mind, the first part of the course will look at various general themes within economic history, from the first industrial revolution to the end of the last century, in order to provide a general frame of reference within which to place the evolutionary process of modern industrial companies.
Later, we will analyse the Italian case, a country that has been seen as representing the different ways of understanding and doing business within the context of economic development in the 20th century. This will allow us to reflect upon the current theories regarding Italy’s ‘decline’, and upon the country’s future prospects. The second part of the course will include a detailed investigation of 20th century companies, with the aim of tracing a comparative profile of the forms of economic development that characterised Western capitalism in different time periods. Particular attention will be paid to the analysis of the American model, with a focus on some particularly emblematic figures of entrepreneurs and managers, from Henry Ford to Alfred Sloan and Lee Iacocca, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.
The course, divided into two modules, covers the following topics:

First module:
- Modern economic development and the paradigm of the ‘industrial revolutions’;
- Business structures;
- Industrial concentration and corporate groups in 20th century Italy;
- The role of big business and small and medium enterprises in the Italian economy;
- Corporate finance;
- Industrial policy.

Second module:
- Business and the evolution of the socio-cultural environment: contexts and institutions;
- The evolution in scale and structure of businesses: family companies, managerial companies and company groups;
- The “fourth capitalism”;
- Business management and governance: organization, work and advances in techniques;
- Rise and fall of state-owned enterprise;
- American capitalism: entrepreneurial profiles and company destinies.

Core Documentation

A.D. Chandler Jr., F. Amatori, T. Hikino (editors), Big Business and the Wealth of Nations, Cambridge U.P., Cambridge, Massachussets, 1997;
G. Jones, J. Zeitlin (editors), The Oxford Handbook of Business History, New York, Oxford U.P., 2008.

Reference Bibliography

F. Amatori, A. Colli, Business History: Complexities and Comparisons, London, Routledge, 2011; W. Baumol, R. Litan, C. Schramm, Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism and the economics of growth and prosperity, London, Yale U.P., 2007; A. Colli, Dynamics of International Business. Comparative Perspectives of Firms, Markets and Entrepreneurship, New York, Routledge, 2016.

Type of delivery of the course

The didactive activity consists in face-to-face lectures: 3 two-hour-long weekly lessons. In addition, in the second part of the course, we have planned seminars with experts and managers, in order to examine in depth specific topics and stimulate the students by applying theoretical knowledge acquired to practical experiences. The seminars’ programme will be notified during the course. Lessons can be attended in person or remotely (Microsoft Teams), but they will be not recorded.


Attendance is not compulsory, though it is strongly suggested.

Type of evaluation

Oral exam of about 30 minutes, on at least 3 topics of the programme. Attending students can take the exam by passing a written test (at the end of the course) based on the lessons’ contents, course listed books, as well as the topics discussed in the seminars.