History Research
sisr Società Italiana di Storia della Ragioneria


Among the sweeping changes brought about by the second world war in every field, a new concept of history and its tasks also emerged: new investigative techniques, new methods, new questions evolved. Yet their subject, the history of mankind, remains unchanged: any sector within the activity must be investigated and the task of historians, people immersed in the reality of the present, is to interpret the societies of the past and in doing so rebuild them.

History therefore continually reinterprets the past, not only in new documentation emerging from the archives, but also by reinterpreting that which is already known, urged on by current ideas and needs, and thus each era writes its own representation of the past, which is the social function of history.

Attributing legitimacy and validity to historical research merely because knowledge has an absolute value proves unsatisfactory. Generally speaking, history must drive our understanding of man’s evolution, to recognise its actual continuity; by conveying ideas and therefore ultimately an understanding of the present and as far as possible attenuate the gloom of the future. And more so our era, in which man is subjected to extremely rapid change and at risk of losing his roots and his identity.

Every situation differs from those that have gone before, yet it also derives from them; and it contains them as it is being generated. Their uninterrupted succession sets the pace of man’s incessant progress. The continuity which thus becomes evident does not even arise when structural changes seem revolutionary; indeed it is possible to observe how a new situation has absorbed part of the old: the elements resulting in the breakdown of the system coexist, at times for long periods, alongside those which characterised it, thus partaking in it. However, within the scope of this continuity it seems difficult or complicated to perceive history’s ability to reveal a positive evolution, in continuous development, of mankind’s progress and, lastly, uncover its ultimate destiny.

Considered not as the facts belonging to the episodes of mankind in their entirety but as the knowledge we possess of those facts, history sees the historian as a person who consults documents to create a picture of the continual development of mankind, of its past effect. The peculiarity of a historian’s work is that he does not deal with existing realities, but instead must capture the past using the manifestations preserved by bygone realities, i.e. the sources, which are duly subjected to scientific examination, and the historical fact must be investigated within the context in which it is manifested in order to acquire valid elements to provide an explanation, yet without limiting oneself to a single outcome. One aspect of complex human activity concerning the economy and known to the historian is the importance that an economic fact possesses in relation to the progress of mankind. Furthermore, interest in socio-economic transformation has enabled the discipline to assume a prognostic value. In respect of the single units within the economic system – the companies – research, whose origins are to be found in the “new historical school”, has firstly opened the doors to Business History, often markedly apologetic, which has subsequently evolved into Entrepreneurial History. Moreover, research into business history must gain an understanding of the context in which the companies operate and by which they are affected. It is easy to see how studies of this kind, which are valid in themselves, also become of key importance for understanding more complex problems specifically inherent to the field of economic history.