This year the EBHA’s Annual Congress was organised by Charlotte Natmeßnig and Peter Berger, members of the institute for economic history, and took place at WU Campus as well as in Vienna for the first time ever. The overarching theme was “Transformation in Business and Society”.
For a meeting of mainly business historians in Vienna, just a few miles away from what once had been the “Iron Curtain”, the transformation label was a tempting choice. It was never intended to limit the scope of papers presented to post-Soviet economic and social change in one single region of the world. The organisers hoped to spark off a broad discussion, one that would encompass political and social factors as well as technological and organisational innovations affecting businesses and entire economies, both on national and international levels.
The Congress was opened by Vice Rector Prof Edith Littich on the evening of August 24 and the Keynote Address titled "Freezing Meteors and Congealed Cold: How the Little Ice Age Ushered in Capitalism" was delivered by Philipp Blom. The Dutch-German-born historian, philosopher, translator, and radio journalist is a graduate from Oxford and Vienna universities. His successful books deal with topics as diverse as early French Enlightenment philosophy, the transformation of European politics, society and art prior to World War I, and the Little Ice Age of the 17th century (to name but a few). The scope of this congress surpassed the European context. 224 delegates from all over the world (29 countries) gathered at WU for two and a half days. The largest groups of attendees were from the UK, Japan and Italy.
On two compact congress days 154 papers presenting the current research of academics and PhD-students were delivered in 46 sessions and four workshops which were chaired by 33 experts from ten countries. An average of 27 participants joined one of the eight parallel sessions and about 55 participated in each of the four workshops. They grouped papers in thematic clusters of subjects ranging from “Immigrants and Family networks”, “Dangerous Liaisons: Women as new clientele of banks in the 1950-1970s” to “Capitalism 4.0”, just to mention a few. To sum up the outcome of the congress, we want to quote from an email sent to the organisers by an enthusiastic Professor from Denmark: “And a success it was, indeed. Every session I attended was informative, thought provoking and interesting, a clear sign that it was time well spent on the wonderful WU campus“.