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The Centre for Economic Institutions and Business History


Our mission

The Centre hosts an interdisciplinary group of researchers who combine the professional skills of archaeologists, classicists, economists, economic historians and business historians to investigate the history of business and the economy. It conducts and disseminates research that strengthens, or challenges, our understanding of the contribution of business enterprise and economic institutions to national and global development.


Changes in the global economy generate a volatile and dynamic business environment, and our research examines how entrepreneurs, organisations and institutions have evolved over time. We are interested in organisations that have endured for generations, responding and adapting to social, economic and technological challenges as they evolve, as well as the emergence of new organisations and industries. We recognise the heterogeneity of organisational forms, and of the business systems of which they are a part. Our research explores the origins and evolution, not only of large multinational enterprises, but also of small and medium-size enterprises, family firms, and business networks.

Our chronological coverage begins with the classical world, and continues through the medieval and early modern periods, the industrial revolution and the digital revolution of today. The Centre provides a creative and enthusiastic intellectual environment and is a centre of excellence in academic research and postgraduate studies.

Events and Visitor Programme

The Centre organises three main events each year, ranging from one-day workshops to three-day conferences. We welcome suggestions for new conference themes. Registration is free for all one-day workshops. The Centre also hosts visits by international scholars. Enquiries should be addressed to the Directors.

Join us

Join our mailing list to receive invitations to our events.

Upcoming events

Royal Statistical Society (History Committee) and the Centre for Economic Institutions and Business History, University of Reading.

One-day conference onMedieval Statistics’

Online 5 November 2021 from 10.00-15.30 via Zoom

To register:

Theme of the conference.

Many people believe that statistical record-keeping in England and Wales was invented by the Victorians, or by early political economists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But statistics have been compiled by English kings since the Burghal hideage of the tenth century. The Norman and Plantagenet kings established a sophisticated system of royal accounts, and their records survive today in the National Archives. Religious institutions also compiled accounts of their income and expenditure. Many of these institutions managed large agricultural estates and the accounts of some of their stewards and bailiffs have survived, giving valuable information about commodity prices and agricultural productivity. Contracts recorded in surviving medieval legal records show the purchase prices and rents paid on property, both for agricultural land and for urban housing. Coin finds, treasure hoards and the records of the royal mints provide information on the medieval money supply. Records of disputes over unpaid debts provide information on the medieval credit market. When all of this information is synthesised, it is feasible for modern researchers to define and measure annual gross domestic product, the consumer price index, the money supply and other important performance measures for medieval England and Wales.

Contact us

Ellie Biggs

Telephone: 0118 378 8255