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Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Britain and West Germany and Their Pursuit of Industrial Competitiveness, c.1949-c.1979

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Paulson, David William  ORCID logo


This thesis examines the culture and conduct of small and medium-sized, family-owned or -controlled enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands of England and the Stuttgart region of Baden-Württemberg in West Germany in the period between 1949 and 1979, examining the histories of six companies in depth.
The German companies studied formed part of the Mittelstand, the sector which is unique to German-speaking countries. Mittelstand companies are said to operate according to well-defined principles, including the emotional attachment of their owning family, which seeks generational continuity to ensure the company remains in family hands; an identification with and attachment to the surrounding region; a patriarchal culture, which seeks to respect individuals within the business and offer them long-term employment within a ‘family’ atmosphere; an independent mindset; and the development of high-quality, niche products that achieve market-winning positions at home and abroad as part of a focused, long-term strategy. The British SMEs are examined to understand whether, in contrast to Mittelstand companies in similar industries, they were short-term in their outlook and sought profit over sustainability. We will also consider whether the British firms operated within a less supportive external operating environment than that experienced by their German peers.
Given their apparently different philosophical underpinnings, some consideration is given to the way in which each type of business accords with their respective identification within the Liberal Market Economies and Coordinated Market Economies definitions of the Varieties of Capitalism literature. The work is organised in this way: in Chapter 1, the Introduction considers the treatment of the Mittelstand in literature and reviews the definitions which help us to identify it and understand its principles. It also considers scholarship on the Varieties of Capitalism. Chapter 2 examines the Contexts within which SMEs in the UK and West Germany operated in this period. It focuses on the training and qualifications of technical staffs, companies’ respective value systems, and on banking arrangements. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 each deal with a pair of companies, linked by common industry or business interest, one from each country. Chapter 6 provides some concluding thoughts, and asserts the value of the Mittelstand business model not only as demonstrated in these historical case studies, but also as a template for twenty-first century business success.





Daunton, Martin James


Mittelstand, family business, SME, banking, Meister, foreman, management, succession, manufacturing, Jensen, Recaro, West Midlands, Black Country, small business, Keiper, Chandler, growth, decline, Hausbank, Sparkasse, shareholder, engineering degree, Stuttgart, Reutlingen, West Bromwich, Birmingham University, Technische Hochschule, apprentice, training, skills, Porsche


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge