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on 13 February 2004
Seriously and irritatingly marred by slipshod typography, this little book is a very entertaining read.
It deals with subjects that might otherwise be considered to be "heavy" in a very engaging way, with lots of anecdotes and humour, without ever missing its main target of providing a serious examination of a major social phenomenon that has passed most non-academic commentators by.
Forget War, Plague or Famine; for most of the Western world -- since, say, 1750 -- History has been the way that the greater part of the population has earned its living and the economic conditions under which it has flourished (or not). This book shows the critical importance of the company in history and the pivotal role it has played in mobilising economic growth.
If there is one criticism -- aside from the excruciating typographical errors -- it is that the overall impression, at the conclusion, is one of smugness about both what the company has been made to achieve and about the future of the company.
Don't be put off by the apparent dryness of the subject matter, this really is a litle gem that throws light on a largely unexamined theme of history.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2003
This book is nicely researched and well presented- not too long (as in padded out) and not too short (despite its title).
I finally understood the origin of the US term 'Trust' as in 'Anti-trust'.
It was also interesting to see the role the Railways had played in causing the Company to evolve, from the limited-time partnerships of the Sailing Ships to the 'ownership' by the Pension Funds.
Only one irritation - the sub-editor must have been asleep reviewing the proofs. Each page contains genuine hyphenated terms such as 'joint-stock' and 'Anglo-Saxon', but there are rogue hyphenations such as in 'chap-ter', 'Car-negie', 'custom-ers', 'Gas-kell', and you keep having to re-read them to see what they mean? I found them in 5 different chapters, so its not as if only one piece of text was added/removed and threw out the pagination?
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 September 2005
Here we have an examination of what seems to be, at first glance, a less-than-exciting subject: the limited-liability joint-stock company. Ah, but that first impression is soon proven false by what indeed is a fascinating, at times riveting (albeit brief) history of what Micklethwait and Wooldridge correctly suggest has been and remains, since the Companies Act of 1862, "the basis of the prosperity of the West and the best hope for the future of the world." Soon becoming the single most powerful economic power, the limited-liability joint-stock company combined the three big ideas behind the modern company: "that it could be an artificial person," with the same ability to do business as a real person; that it could issue tradable shares to any number of investors; and that those investors could have limited liability (so they could lose only the money they had committed to the firm)."
Although Micklethwait and Wooldridge do indeed provide "a short history of a revolutionary idea," their book is remarkably comprehensive as it traces the evolution of commercial structure from merchants and monopolists (3000 B.C. -- 1500) through imperialists and speculators (1500-1750) and the "prolonged and painful birth" of the limited-liability joint-stock company (1750-1862) before shifting their and the reader's attention to the rise of big business in America (1862-1913), the rise of big business in Britain, Germany, and Japan (1850-1950), the triumph of managerial capitalism (1913-1975), and what they characterize as "the corporate paradox" (1975-2002) before examining "agents of influence: multinationals (1850-2002) in the final chapter. All this, and done very well indeed, in less than 200 pages! For those interested in further study of any/all of the periods and subjects they discuss, Micklethwait and Wooldridge provide an exceptionally informative "Bibliographic Note" section, followed by all of the footnotes in which additional recommendations are included.
Congratulations to Micklethwait and Wooldridge on what I consider to be a brilliant achievement, one which combines scholarship of the highest order with narrative skills worthy of Austen, Thackeray, and Dickens.
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on 13 December 2007
It's never easy to distill the about three-century history of company in no more than 200 pages without truncating too many important facts. The authors have done a brilliant job. Apart from some typographic errors, which have been pointed out by other readers, this book is excellent of its kind and live up to its book title. The bibliographic note at the back of the book is very useful as well, which provides you with succinct guidance on which books are your ideal further readings, rather than merely enumerating a book list.
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on 6 October 2012
Fascinating! The invention of the company is almost an adventure story, and reflects a very high level of research and understanding by the authors, allowing them to go beyond a simple "list of events" to a coherent narrative. They're not afraid to synthesise and present critical analysis.

The last half drags a little, compared to the tightly-written first two-thirds, mostly because it's too focussed on particular events in modern times. Also the book focusses on US/UK rather than the world as a whole. This latter neglect is a reasonable choice, and works well.

Over all, I highly recommend this book: I don't know of any competition that approaches the well-referenced confidence that it brings to the topic.
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on 21 December 2015
Very interesting in so far as it goes and the author clearly believes that the company is the world's greatest invention and ignores the financial crisis and Enron etc.
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