The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement, 1919-1938

The literature on inter-war British industrial management has been extremely critical, presenting firms as bring conservative in organisational terms, with only a small number of progressive ones (Hannah 1983). Similarly, other observers have emphasized the grip of tradition on British business culture (Wilson 1995: Wilson and Thomson 2006). Despite these views, we know there was a growing core of British Management thought (Urwick 1956, Child 1969, Bech et al 2010) and a large number of firms employing management consultants (Ferguson 2002). In this context. Quaker employers led by Cadbury and Rowntree led the way with three significant innovations. These were: i. Conferences of Quaker employers (Cadbury conferences); ii. A series of lectures (Rowntree lectures) to enable employers and employees to explore the management challenges facing industry; iii. The establishment of Management Research Group movement by Rowntree. The initiatives led by Rowntree have received rather limited attention with mainly a focus on their structure rather than content (Bech et al 2010; Wilson and Thomson 2006). Our project aims to examine these innovations in greater depth thereby contributing to a clearer understanding of the evolution of British management theory and practice in the inter-war period. It will do so within the context of ideas of knowledge transfer and the importance of communities of practice as represented by the creation of the Management Research Groups. In addition it will create a valuable resource for other researchers in the form of a digitised version of the material.

Business education, Business management, War, Knowledge transfer

Cite this dataset as:
Shaw, G., Maclean, M., 2021. The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement, 1919-1938. UK Data Service. Available from:


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Gareth Shaw
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Mairi Maclean
University of Bath


Gary Stringer
University of Exeter


Collection date(s):

From 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2019

Temporal coverage:

From 1 January 1919 to 31 December 1938


Data collection method:

Archival research; oral history. Sources were selected according to themes following the research questions, discovered with assistance from archivists at each archive. Oral archives of individuals involved in the lectures, and were identified from archive holdings as being of the individuals concerned, and were digitised and included in the archive for preservation purposes, whether the material was relevant or not.

Data processing and preparation activities:

Digitised primary sources are presented, with associated metadata and transcripts where necessary. Documents were collated from originals held by various archives documented in the metadata; they were photographed or scanned mostly as JPG files, then OCR'd using ABBYY Finereader to create PDF/A documents readable with Adobe Acrobat. Images were scanned as JPGs. Audo files were recovered from variable-speed reel-to-reel tapes, archived as lossless WAV files and converted to MP3 at 256kbps or higher. The Omeka-hosted Archive website URL provides user-friendly access to all data and metadata. The OAI-PMH repository link provides an API which can be used by OAI compliant archives to access or ingest the same data, but will need to be supplemented with OAIPMH commands to extract information.


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The Rowntree Business Lectures and the Interwar British Management Movement

Publication details

Publication date: 27 May 2021
by: UK Data Service

Version: 1


URL for this record:

Related papers and books

Maclean, M., Shaw, G., Harvey, C., and Booth, A., 2020. Management Learning in Historical Perspective: Rediscovering Rowntree and the British Interwar Management Movement. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 19(1), 1-20. Available from:

Contact information

Please contact the Research Data Service in the first instance for all matters concerning this item.


School of Management
Strategy & Organisation

Research Centres & Institutes
Centre for Business, Organisations and Society (CBOS)