CfP: The 6th Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe

Business History and Transformations in Central & Eastern Europe

The organizing committee of the 6th Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe invites abstract proposals for a two-day workshop which will be held at the University of Vienna on October 24-25, 2024, and will be hosted by the Research Platform “Transformations and Eastern Europe” and the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET).

This year’s workshop is entitled “Business History and Transformations in Central & Eastern Europe”. Its focus will be on the variety of challenges that enterprises and entrepreneurs had to cope with during times of significant political, economic, social, and cultural changes and upheavals in the region of CEE from the 19th century to the early 21st century. We recognize the events of the revolutionary uprisings across CEE in 1848/49, the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867, the (re)emergence of new states in CEE after the end of the First World War 1918, the rise of state-socialist dictatorships in CEE after 1945, or the systemic transformations of 1989-91 as profound turning points in the history of CEE. However, we also agree that these events cannot be reduced to isolated “numeric keywords” as they were rather peaks of longer-lasting processes of change(s). We thus refer to concepts of transformation that emphasize transformation as a process of “accelerated” political, economic, and societal change with an often “unspecified” time frame of its beginning and its end (see for example Ther 2014; Kührer-Wielach, Lemmen 2016). Although there is a scholarly consensus that entrepreneurship is an important driver of transformational processes, the question of "how entrepreneurs initiate, contribute to, prevent, or foster transformation in markets and societies" remains largely unexplored (Lubinski et al. 2023, p.5). This question also applies to the role of companies and its various stakeholders in transformation processes, particularly how enterprises and transformations shape each other?

The workshop intends to make an important contribution to answer the questions, mentioned above, and the organizers are thus welcoming proposals that fit the general scope of the workshop, however, we are especially interested in proposals addressing one or more of the following (interlinked) topics:

Transformations & enterprises from a long-term and global perspective

We are looking forward to analyses of linkages between business in CEE and (global) political, economic, societal and cultural changes and the question of companies and entrepreneurs as important actors and respondents of transformations. Case studies of dis/continuities in (long-term) histories of companies and entrepreneurship related to fundamental transformations in CEE are thus welcomed. We particularly welcome proposals that consider fundamental economic policy shifts related to transformations, such as collectivization, market liberalization and/or economic nationalism and their impacts on business in CEE. As the comparison of different historical transformations in CEE provides an interesting object of research (Ther 2014), we appreciate case studies with comparative approaches.

Business practises and transformation / Transformations of business practices

The focus here is on particular business practices: How did transformations influence business practices on the one hand, and how did they themselves contribute to the dynamics of changes on the other? Specifically, we welcome papers that deal with questions about (entrepreneurial) re/actions to changing political, social, and cultural contexts around businesses as well as forms of adaptation, resistance and/or resilience to change(s). How business organizations maneuvered through transformational periods and how agencies of various business actors can be embedded analytically in larger (macro-level) contexts of systemic transformation?

Transformation “from below”

We also encourage involving non-salient stakeholders of business organizations other than top management as important historical actors of transformations, particularly labour. We hereby want to consider shifting power relations between various stakeholders in business organizations in the course of transformations in CEE and/or in its aftermath. We are interested in proposals that explore new forms of grassroots activities related to business in times of accelerated political, economic and social change(s) and their impact on such changes. Accordingly, (new) forms of social upward mobility as well as new or persisting inequalities (in its intersectional dimension) related to business and transformations in CEE are to be scrutinized.

Retrospective perceptions of transformations

Lubinski et al. (2023) suggests to combine the “temporality of transformation” from the following two time perceptions: “Over time”, as a retrospective that assesses transformation according to its consequences and “in time”, as the "prospective" perception of transformation of business actors and their associated ideas of imagined future(s). Accordingly, we invite proposals dealing with retrospective perceptions of various corporate actors on transformations. How are transformations told in corporate narratives and how are these narratives shaped by corporate museums, corporate books and (business) archives? On the other hand, how did other stakeholders, such as ordinary employees, reflect on their experiences in enterprises during times of accelerated change/s?

We are looking forward to receiving your proposals (abstracts of circa 600 words, including a clear statement of the research question and brief information on the conceptual framework and, if applicable, the sources + short bio and contact details) to wbhcee(at) by April 15, 2024. For submitting your proposal please use the following template. We especially encourage submitting proposals of papers in progress and particularly encourage PhD-students to apply.

The organizing committee reserves the right to select the applications received.  Notifications of full acceptance will be communicated by the beginning of May 2024.

Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation. PhD students without their own funding should indicate this when submitting their proposal. Depending on the availability of funds, the hosts will endeavour to secure additional resources to assist with the travel and accommodation costs for these PhD students.

For further information and questions, please feel free to contact:

Martin Gumiela

E-Mail: martin.gumiela(at)


Christina Lubinski, R. Daniel Wadhwani, William B. Gartner & Renee Rottner, Humanistic approaches to change: Entrepreneurship and transformation, in Business History (2023), DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2023.2213193

Florian Kührer-Wielach & Sarah Lemmen, Transformation in East Central Europe: 1918 and 1989. A Comparative Approach, in European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 23:4 (2016), 573-579, DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2016.1178895

Philipp Ther, Die neue Ordnung auf dem alten Kontinent. Eine Geschichte des neoliberalen Europa (Berlin: Suhrkamp 2014).