Call for Papers
The Changing Role of Consultants in Industry, 1850?2000.
Workshop at the Maison Franc?aise d?Oxford, 2-10 Norham Road, Oxford OX2
6SE, United Kingdom. 10-11 May 2019
Submission deadline for proposals: 7 December 2018
While historians have explored the role of R&D in industrial progress,
consultants as a specialist professional group are largely neglected. With
few exceptions, only passing reference is made to their background and
training, the circumstances of their engagement, the nature of the work and
its success. Outside business consultancy, there has been little
exploration of the range of consultancy work across different sectors of
industry and within different time periods. Yet it is clear that
consultants were often a key resource in knowledge management for firms,
especially in emerging sectors making the transition from craft-based
traditions to use of scientific knowledge. As the modern corporation arose
during the late 19th century, firms faced a growing problem of managing
knowledge. They set up in-house laboratories and began to develop R&D
programmes. But, at the same time, consultants played a key role in
spreading new technologies across firms, improving operating practices
within factories, establishing standards and helping develop key supply
This workshop will address these issues in the context of various
industrial sectors across Europe and in the United States, and attempt to
establish evidence on who the consultants were, the market for consultants
and their impact. Questions that arise include:
Who are the consultants? Studies of individuals or consultancy firms which
illustrate the role of consultants.
Shifting definitions of consultants over time: how has this changed and how
has the profession evolved? What of the emergence of professional service
firms and process plant contractors who bundle consultancy with the supply
of design, plant or buildings, commissioning, training and start-up? How
did someone become a consultant? What gave them the expertise (and
standing) to undertake such work? What networks did consultants operate in
to sustain their work? What levels of remuneration were available?
The market for consultants
Who employed consultants? What are the challenges for a business in
defining a consultant?s project? How readily is the consultant?s report
utilised by the business? What kind of consultancy work was undertaken? Did
it vary over time? At what point was the consultant?s work taken inside the
business? Did any conflicts arise? If so, how were they resolved? To what
extent were patents involved? What about the use of industrial consultants
by banks, stockholders, financiers and/or government departments or
agencies to evaluate capital schemes and projects?
The impact of consultants
How did consultants contribute to innovation and diffusion of technology?
What types of knowledge were transferred? What was their relationship to
formal in-house R&D ? complement or substitute? Has their influence shifted
over time? How has their technical advice influenced government industrial
The workshop will be based on pre-circulated papers, approx. 5,000 words,
with deadline of 30 March 2019. A selection of workshop contributions will
be published in an edited volume.
Please send proposals (max 300 words) and a short CV by 7 December to:
Notification for full paper by 19 December.
Organisers: Peter Reed (Independent Researcher), Jonathan Aylen (University
of Manchester) and Viviane Quirke (Oxford Brookes University).
The workshop is supported by grants from the British Society for the
History of Science, the Newcomen Society, Oxford Brookes University and the
Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.