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Guide to Business History

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Our guest author today is Ellen Terrell, Business Reference Specialist with another in our “Favorites From the Fifth Floor” series.

A view of the new market from the corner of Shippen & Second-streets Philada. 1787
A view of the new market from the corner of Shippen & Second-streets Philada. 1787

Quite early in my tenure here at the Library I realized that “history” in terms of business research was not 5 years or less but 50, 100, or 200+ years ago.  Coming from the private sector I realized that I needed a little help in trying to find those sources that would help me locate data and information from the past.  It has become a bit of an obsession for me.

In the process of trying to find sources that discussed the price of goods going back in time I discovered Guide to Business History: Materials for the Study of American Business History and Suggestions for their Use by Henrietta Larson a professor of Business History at Harvard. This title has about 5,000 sources, includes a very detailed table of contents and a lengthy index that makes finding the sources that much easier. I often find it useful in locating titles that might answer my questions.

One amazing title Larson led me to was A History of Agriculture and Prices in England: From the Year After the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the Commencement of the Continental War 1793 by James E. Thorold Rogers published from 1866-1902. This title runs to 7 volumes, covers quite a bit of time and was, obviously, quite a prodigious undertaking.  The majority of the data comes from accounts of abbeys and large estates. One table in chapter two had information on produce like rye, oats, peas, and other agricultural products for the years 1333-1336 for places like Cambridge, Basingstoke, and Farley.

Not able to visit us here?  The Internet Archive has digitized a portion of  A History of Agriculture and Prices in England and made it available online.

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