Liability of Foreignness in Historical Context: German Business in Preindependence India (1880–1940)

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Much of international business literature has dealt with the costs of engaging in business abroad. Recently, several authors have called into question the basic assumptions of the “liability of foreignness” argument. They plead for a more nuanced look at nationality beyond the dichotomy of foreign vis-à-vis local firms and raise doubts about the assumption that more distance necessarily translates into higher costs. This article adds to this criticism with a historical analysis of German multinational enterprises in preindependence India. The case proves (1) the relevance of specific nationalities, (2) the importance of conflicting host and home country attitudes for understanding multinationals’ strategy, and (3) the possibility of spillover effects across national borders. Expanding on existing theory, the article makes a point in showing how malleable and contextual associations with nationality are, thus making a thorough historical analysis of commercial, political, and cultural links between host and home country indispensable.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnterprise & Society
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)722-758
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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