Project

Belgian multinational entrepreneurs in the making of a global economy: The business empire of Edouard Empain (1880-1914)

Goal: In the four decades before the First World War, the world increasingly globalized, both economically, politically and culturally. A highly connected economy integrated distant parts of the world into one global market. Taking the Empain group as a case allows me to study Belgian businessmen and their multinational enterprises in the pre-WWI global economy from a business perspective. In this entangled world, what role could Edouard Empain, a prominent Belgian entrepreneur, play exactly? Building on financial sources and archive-based case studies, the dissertation focuses on economic opportunities, the role of nationality, the personal network as well as on corporate structure and control as determinants for Empain’s success. On the one hand, this research will investigate how Belgian business managed to be part of the global expansion wave in the decades before the First World War, despite its powerful imperial competitors. On the other hand, it will explore how Belgian multinationals, like their foreign counterparts, actively contributed to the establishment of a global market.

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Tobit Vandamme
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In the four decades before the First World War, the world increasingly globalized, both economically, politically and culturally. A highly connected economy integrated distant parts of the world into one global market. Taking the Empain group as a case allows me to study Belgian businessmen and their multinational enterprises in the pre-WWI global economy from a business perspective. In this entangled world, what role could Edouard Empain, a prominent Belgian entrepreneur, play exactly? Building on financial sources and archive-based case studies, the dissertation focuses on economic opportunities, the role of nationality, the personal network as well as on corporate structure and control as determinants for Empain’s success. On the one hand, this research will investigate how Belgian business managed to be part of the global expansion wave in the decades before the First World War, despite its powerful imperial competitors. On the other hand, it will explore how Belgian multinationals, like their foreign counterparts, actively contributed to the establishment of a global market.