About the business history project

The Business History project profiles Auckland's colourful commercial history. It captures the story of the region and its economic development; it's a story of enterprising migrants, gutsy pioneers and visionary leaders.

Portrait of Sir John Logan Campbell (1910)
Portrait of Sir John Logan Campbell (image courtesy of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki)

What are the characteristics of our longest-lasting firms? How did New Zealand's greatest entrepreneurs bring their products and services to market? Is New Zealand's economic development different from other countries and cultures? These are important questions that careful study of business history can illuminate.

Since the 1920s, business historians have looked to company records and accounts of company success and failure, to educate successive generations of business students. Achieving notoriety through the Harvard Case Study method, the study of business history is today in the throes of a revival, as scholars and practitioners alike look to the past to distil lessons that might assist present and future business practice.

For New Zealand in particular, business history offers an opportunity to increase our commercial knowledge, while at the same time, deepening our sense of nationhood.

While many aspects of national history have received attention, the activities, accomplishments, and contributions of the commercial sector have largely gone unnoticed. This is a gap that the University of Auckland Business history project has addressed. By researching and writing the stories of the entrepreneurs and firms that contributed to our rich commercial heritage, the project has inspired and educated another generation.

Through case histories, books, website material, business history wall, heritage walks, conferences, we hope these activities will enrich our business community and students with a greater understanding of the past, so they might be even better equipped to build a brilliant future.