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date: 20 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the evolutionary dynamics and organizational characteristics of the diversified business groups built up by the UK-based trading companies from their nineteenth-century origins. It examines firms such as Jardine Matheson and Swire, which remain important components of the Asia Pacific economy into the twenty-first century, and other firms such as Inchcape and the United Africa Company, which were once major regional players. A central theme of this article is to examine how the British trading companies faced the challenge of organizing increasingly complex businesses as they diversified. Furthermore, this article examines the strategies of British trading companies from the late eighteenth century into the twenty-first. It also analyzes the ways that trading companies organized their activities as they diversified in terms of geography and product.

Keywords: business groups, Jardine Matheson, Swire, Inchcape, United Africa Company, British trading companies

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