Religion, Organization and Company Law:A Case Study of a Quaker Business

Burton, Nicholas and Kavanagh, Donncha and Brigham, Martin (2019) Religion, Organization and Company Law:A Case Study of a Quaker Business. Management and Organizational History, 14 (4). pp. 317-336. ISSN 1744-9359

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This paper examines the effect of changes in corporate law in the mid-nineteenth century – incorporation and limited liability – on the ownership, control and socio-economic objectives of a Quaker family firm between 1841 and 1972. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) were wellknown for adhering to internalized quasi-legal rules and self-governance, and had a strongreputation, which persists today, for trust, integrity and honesty in all business dealings. We read existing archival research on Quaker firm Huntley & Palmer (the biscuit manufacturer) against the grain to trace how incorporation and limited liability fundamentally changed its capital structure and the family’s control of the firm and which, in turn, led to a gradual weakening of its social ambitions.We argue that changes to the law are akin to changing the rules of the game within which players’ play, and we show how Quaker quasi-legal rules became subordinate to corporate law resulting in unexpected and non-trivial impacts that play out over long, longitudinal periods of time.

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Journal Article
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Management and Organizational History
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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Management and Organizational HIstory on 31/10/2019, available online:
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18 Oct 2019 07:55
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 08:15