Entrepreneurship in History

Workshop leaders:

Lačezar Stefanov (ISHA Sofia, MA, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”)
Dimitar Valchev (ISHA Sofia, MA, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”)

Even though ‘Entrepreneur’ as a term originated in the XVIII century, the history of private enterprise can be dated much earlier in time and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that ever since markets existed, so did entrepreneurs. While traditional historiography is primarily concerned with their activity just as far as it is subject to regulations and taxes (especially when dealing with more remote periods), some investigations manage to put the spotlight on the impact these people make on the societies they live in. Both regular citizens and governments depend on these people to deliver value in their lives, since value itself doesn’t exist naturally and people need someone to create it. Even though within an entirely free market there are no privileged players, in this workshop we are also going to deal with cases, where private enterprise received a strong back from the state (in the form of subsidies and other protections). In some extreme cases there were even whole categories of population, responsible only to supply the government with goods, considered crucial for its existence (like in the Ottoman empire). The union of state and capital, which evolved into what is nowadays known as ‘corporatism’, is a good example for the inefficiency of large organizations and comprises the primary reason why major players can still be beaten in the value delivery competition. Why does Entrepreneurship exist in the first place? What is the entrepreneurial activity’s overall impact on society? Is life possible without it? Which societies prove to be more successful – those which respect and encourage private property and enterprise, or those with less focus on them? Do governments successfully fulfill their role to protect their citizens and enable them have better lives by regulating their economic activity? This is only a part of the questions we hope to find answers to in this workshop.