Business History Review

Research Article

Economic Theory and the Rise of Big Business in America, 1870–1910

Jack High


Between 1870 and 1910, big business established itself as a prominent feature of the American economy. American economists paid close attention to its rise and confronted the difficulties of integrating large firms into economic theory. The result was a theory that emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship, that enlarged the scope of competition, that distinguished profit from other forms of income, and that was compatible with large-scale enterprise. The insights of earlier American economists have been lost to modern economic theory, which extols the virtues of small firms.

JACK HIGH is professor of economics and public policy at George Mason University and coauthor (with Clayton Coppin) of The Politics of Purity: Harvey Washington Wiley and the Origins of Federal Food Policy (1999). He has edited several volumes, including Humane Economics (2006), and has published numerous articles in professional journals. His current research and teaching interests are international business and entrepreneurship.