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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.

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Recent events

The 8th Annual Conference on “Contests: Theory and Evidence

The Department of Economics and the Centre for Economic Institutions and Business History at the University of Reading hosted the 8th Annual Conference on “Contests: Theory and Evidence” on June 20 and 21, 2022.

Many situations, such as promotional tournaments, sports, electoral race, rent-seeking, animal contests, war, terrorism, etc., can be categorized as contests. Hence, researchers in economics and beyond (e.g., political science, psychology, neuroscience, management, sports, biology, computer science etc.) have employed contest theory in their research. This conference is the biggest conference in this area hosted by different institutes over the earlier years.

This year the conference was organized in a hybrid (in-person and online) format, and a total 94 participants around the globe and across various fields joined the conference. There were 14 parallel sessions focused on various issues of contests such as market, dynamic contests, applications, information, risk behaviour etc., hosting a total of 44 presentations. The Keynote speech was delivered by Prof Debraj Ray from New York University.

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