The Economic and Business History Research Center (EBHRC) was established in June 2004 by the combined efforts of Middle East history scholars from Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington and The American University in Cairo (AUC), as well as the enthusiasm of a cohort of fresh and recently graduated students with interest in this field.
In a country rich in events and history, and comparably poor in transparency and in accessibility of records, the center perceived its task as capturing the untold history, stories and narratives locked in the memories of people.
EBHRC’s mission centers around the creation of research and teaching primary material, dissemination of the material and providing training for promising students and fresh graduates. The above targets are reflected in EBHRC’s activities.
In terms of documentation, the center compiles oral narratives of people who played a pivotal role in Egypt’s public policy and enterprise since the 1950s. By taking the oral narratives of individuals who played various roles in public policy and enterprise and converting these into transcripts with appropriate disclosure rights, EBHRC creates and compiles primary records building a repository of primary records on the economic and business history of Egypt that do not exist in the public domain.
Business history is a hybrid field. Attempts to define its focus and boundaries agree on its interdisciplinary dimension even though the specific disciplines that it transcends vary from resting mainly on economics and business studies in one variation and focusing predominantly on the firm’s perspective, to emphasizing a social history approach and placing the immediate subject of study (firm, market, industry and business community) in the respective socio-political-cultural and global contexts. The first group of interviewees was selected to document Egypt’s industrial experience 1956 to 1991, and covered several ministers of industry during this period. The initial recordings and interviewees triggered widening of the focus of this project. EBHRC has a wide spectrum of oral narrative projects spanning industry, banking, economic policy, infrastructure, commerce, social entrepreneurs, research and development, military industrial complex and intellectuals, to mention a few. In addition EBHRC has undertaken some special projects, such as Café Riche and University on the Square: Documenting Egypt’s 21st Century Revolution.
In EBHRC’s quest to disseminate information, since EBHRC’s inception in 2004, a pivotal dissemination tool has been to hold the AUC Annual Forum on the Economic and Business History of Egypt and the Middle East, spreading awareness of EBHRC compiled records. The sessions include roundtable discussions, personal narrative sessions and company history sessions. Forum sessions constitute an integral component of EBHRC compiled material as well.
The Chronicles, the periodic publication of EBHRC, creates a forum for the dissemination of knowledge in general and the center’s work in particular; it is a space for research in the making, a venue for the work of young scholars and a brainstorming platform among academics.
With the aim of employing the repository in promoting the study of Egyptian and Middle East business history, since Spring 2007 the work of EBHRC has been brought to the classroom through a course offered by AbdelAziz EzzelArab, EBHRC founding director, that relies primarily on records accumulated by the center through its various activities be it oral records, panels of the forum or transcripts. This course also involves documentation projects by the students, with the help of the center’s personnel and facilities. Some of these interviews are transcribed and added to the center’s database and/or added to the course’s teaching material.
EBHRC has approximately 500 hours of primary material from various sources be it individual narrative sessions, special narrative projects, forum sessions and student projects.
EBHRC Founding Team
EBHRC Donors and Funding