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Does history matter in strategy? The possibilities and problems of counterfactual analysis

Booth, Charles


Charles Booth
Associate Professor in Strategy and Organisation


Does history matter in strategy? The lack of attention given to historical perspectives in the mainstream literature suggests that it does not. Recently, however, authors have argued that historical forces do affect the strategic management of organizations, and have highlighted their importance through the concept of “path dependence”. I review the literature on path dependence and argue that a conception of the complexities of historical understanding is required in a dynamic understanding of organizations. To highlight these complexities, I review an important theme in twentieth century historiography: the possibilities and problems presented by counterfactual analysis. Despite some serious objections to counterfactual thinking, this method may yield benefits for both managers and theorists. I conclude that to do justice to the importance of history in organizations, we must follow Collingwood in engaging, not with the question “Shall I be a historian or not?”, but rather with the question, “How good a historian shall I be?”. © 2003, MCB UP Limited


Booth, C. (2003). Does history matter in strategy? The possibilities and problems of counterfactual analysis. Management Decision, 41(1), 96-104.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2003
Journal Management Decision
Print ISSN 0025-1747
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 41
Issue 1
Pages 96-104
Keywords history, counterfactual analysis
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