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The Determinants of Entrepreneurship: Leadership, Culture and Institutions

Author(s):Garcia-Ruiz, José L.
Toninelli, Pier Angelo
Reviewer(s):Godley, Andrew

Published by EH.Net (February 2011)

Jos? L. Garcia-Ruiz and Pier Angelo Toninelli, editors, The Determinants of Entrepreneurship: Leadership, Culture and Institutions. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2010. x + 236 pp. $99 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-1-84893-071-1.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Andrew Godley, Henley Business School, University of Reading.

The surge among business school researchers worldwide of studies in entrepreneurship over the last decade or so has been nothing short of remarkable. The topic is now a fully-fledged research track in the Academy of Management, Association of International Business and Strategic Management Society meetings, for example. Despite such growth in volume of research, the need for well-structured, empirically robust historical studies has never been greater. Recent edited collections, such as those by David Landes, Joel Mokyr and Will Baumol, The Invention of Enterprise along with Hans Landstrom and Franz Lohrke, Historical Foundations of Entrepreneurship Research, have offered syntheses of existing historical research. But Jos? L. Garcia-Ruiz and Pier Angelo Toninelli are to be applauded because they break new ground in The Determinants of Entrepreneurship by summarizing interim results from several new studies of historical entrepreneurship in Italy, Spain, Greece and Latin America.

The collection begins with Franco Amatori?s masterful survey of a lifetime?s work on understanding historical patterns of Italian entrepreneurship. Much of what is now the consensus view of Italian entrepreneurship was sketched out by Amatori over thirty years ago in an article in Business History Review. Since 2001, Amatori has compiled the Biographical Dictionary of Italian Entrepreneurs. Owing to funding pressures, this remains incomplete. But both Amatori and Toninelli and Vasta (below) are able to draw some impressive initial inferences here. Ioanna Sapfo Pepelasis also introduces readers to a wholly novel database on Greek entrepreneurs. Compiled from the founding charters of Greek Soci?t? Anonymes between 1830 and 1909, this initial survey of the data offers insights into the process of diversification away from agriculture and maritime trade that characterized Greek development.

Then follow three essays examining business leaders. First, Pier Angelo Toninelli and Michelangelo Vasta provide a quantitative analysis of a section of the Biographical Dictionary of Italian Entrepreneurs. They utilize cluster analysis to generate new findings from collective biographical data, a reasonably frequent method used in recent research on present-day entrepreneurs, but rare among historical surveys. This is followed by Gabriel Tortella, Gloria Quiroga and Ignacio Moral, who compare data drawn from David Jeremy?s well known Dictionary of Business Biography for British entrepreneurs with less well-known surveys of Spanish entrepreneurs to challenge the received wisdom that Spanish entrepreneurs were not well educated. This section is completed by Paloma Fernandez-P?rez and Nuria Puig?s analysis of the importance of social capital to Catalan family firms.

The third group of essays explores the impact of national, ethnic and religious cultural values and education levels on entrepreneurial activity. James Foreman-Peck and Peng Zhou develop Foreman-Peck?s earlier work on modeling entrepreneurial culture, with the results suggesting that such cultural influences can be remarkably persistent. In the only non-quantitative contribution in the volume, Carlos Davila focuses on the need among the Latin American community of business and economic historians to move away from conceptualizing the past in terms of dependency theory. Finally Jos? Garcia Ruiz assesses educational attainment among Spanish entrepreneurs since the 1940s.?

What do we learn? Above all this reviewer was impressed by the sheer volume of new empirical data that is being created by this group of researchers. As all the authors acknowledge, these are interim results. Nevertheless there are several highly suggestive findings. Prime among these are the relatively high levels of educational attainment by Spanish and Italian entrepreneurs during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and that the business group structure was the norm in Greece in the past, as it is in China and India today. Perhaps most strikingly, however, is the clarification of the how technological transfer was initiated by entrepreneurs in Mediterranean Europe. For while it has been a commonplace for years that economic development on the South European periphery during this period was dependent on foreign technology, the institutional structure that facilitated that process is less well understood. Recent developments in Asian development have challenged the previous consensus that strong property rights encourage entrepreneurial initiative. The studies here also undermine such a simplistic association of innovation and market creation with the creation of property rights. There is no doubt that as the studies progress the number of insights will increase. We can certainly look forward to several of these studies eventually finding their way into the leading journals. But the editors are to be congratulated for such a tantalizing view of what is to come.

Andrew Godley is Professor of Management and Director of Research at the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship, Henley Business School, University of Reading, UK. He has authored many studies of historical entrepreneurship, including Jewish Immigrant Entrepreneurship in London and New York: Enterprise and Culture (Palgrave, 2001), and ?The Veterinary Medicines Industry in Britain, 1900-2000? (with Tony Corley), Economic History Review (forthcoming), ?Weetman Pearson in Mexico and the Emergence of a British Oil Major, 1901-1919? (with Lisa Bud Frierman and Judith Wale), Business History Review (2010), and ?Democratizing Luxury and the Contentious ?Invention of the Technological Chicken? in Britain? (with Bridget Williams), Business History Review (2009).

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Subject(s):Business History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Latin America, incl. Mexico and the Caribbean
Time Period(s):19th Century
20th Century: Pre WWII
20th Century: WWII and post-WWII