Modern Library Chronicles

The Company

A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea

Publisher: Modern Library
Chosen by BusinessWeek as One of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year

With apologies to Hegel, Marx, and Lenin, the basic unit of modern society is neither the state, nor the commune, nor the party; it is the company. From this bold premise, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge chart the rise of one of history’s great catalysts for good and evil.

In a “fast-paced and well-written” work (Forbes), the authors reveal how innovations such as limitations on liability have permitted companies to rival religions and even states in importance, governing the flow of wealth and controlling human affairs–all while being largely exempt from the rules that govern our lives.

The Company is that rare, remarkable book that fills a major gap we scarcely knew existed. With it, we are better able to make sense of the past four centuries, as well as the events of today.

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1

Merchants and Monopolists

3000 b.c. — a.d. 1500


Before the modern company came of age in the mid-nineteenth century, it had an incredibly protracted and often highly irresponsible youth. The merchants and marauders, imperialists and speculators, who dominated business life for so many...
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PRAISE FOR

Praise for The Company by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge


“Remarkable . . . True believers in the free market faith and heretics alike will profit from knowing this history.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A swashbuckling journey through the past and into the future of the modern company.”
Los Angeles Times

The authors take up [the corporation’s] tale with brio and wit . . . . Worthwhile for almost anyone with an interest in the subject.”
The Wall Street Journal

“The limited-liability joint-stock company is a very marvel of the modern world economy, a historical force to rival religions, monarchies, and even states. The Company tells the colorful story of its birth and maturation—and its pervasive social and cultural consequences—with rare concision and flair.”
David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear and professor of history at Stanford University

“A fascinating and delightful investigation both of how the guilds and ‘corporate persons’ of the Middle Ages turned into the institution from which so many people today directly and indirectly earn their daily bread and of the issues facing the company in the twenty-first century.”
Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize and coauthor of The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy