Form and Media in Management and Organizational History: How Different Research Programs Transform the ‘Past’ Into ‘History’

Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen*, Mads Mordhorst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Management and organizational history has devoted relatively little attention to what constitutes ‘data’, hindering potentially productive discussions between diverse research programs. This article analyzes variations in how research programs observe and create empirical data. To do so, we introduce the difference between form and medium as implicated in all observations. Observation is a tight coupling (form), which is made of, and made possible by, loosely coupled elements (media). In this perspective, empirical data are media through which historians observe the ‘past’ in order to transform it into ‘history’. To explore the value of this meta-perspective on data, the article analyzes, how empirical data as media of loosely coupled elements are created differently in the works of Kr. Erslev, Michel Foucault, Hayden White, and Niklas Luhmann. The analysis shows that the construction of empirical data as specific kinds of media constitutes radically different potentialities for the way in which ‘history’ can be formed. Our paper contributes to the ‘historical turn’, by opening a space for comparison and discussion between different research programs, thereby potentially leading to increased integration between the fields of history and management and organization studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement & Organizational History
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)34-56
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Published online: 17 January 2024.


  • Empirical data
  • Form
  • Management history
  • Media
  • Observation
  • The history turn

Cite this