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“It is impossible to study our history without studying our companies.”

On 14, 15 and 16 June, the second International Congress on Business History in France brought together the many actors who study the history of companies in France. At this event, partnered by BNP Paribas, we interviewed Marie Laperdrix, Head of BNP Paribas Group’s Archives & History Department.

What does it mean to BNP Paribas to be one of the main partners of the International Congress on Business History in France?

Marie Laperdrix (M.L.) : As we did for the first congress in 2019, we wanted to lend our support to this important gathering of international business historians, as they are the core audience that come regularly to consult the Group’s archives in France(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab), Belgium(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab) and Italy(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab). First of all, we took part in a round-table discussion on “Culture and Remembrance”, which I chaired, with the aim of preserving and promoting our heritage. This round table’s goal was to investigate the role of archives – paper, oral, photographic or audiovisual – and to show how they can be used to document the history of companies and countries, including those who do not possess their own archives. Our second direct participation dealt with sharing resources with partners and researchers, such as economic historians, art historians, etc., who use our archives as an additional source. This took the form of a session on the history and archives of Eastern Europe between the two world wars. This was a way to highlight the more obscure sources on which we work with social science researchers, in particular from Ecole des hautes études in sciences sociales (EHESS), with whom we have a partnership, and those associations that make use of these archives. And, lastly, this type of congress gives us an opportunity to assist researchers such as Anna Shapovalova, who need our support. 

A researcher supported by BNP Paribas

Anna Shapovalova, an associate researcher at Sciences Po Paris(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab) and a post-doctoral candidate at the University of Bologna(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab), wrote her dissertation on the international dimension of the so-called “for example” major trials of the first five-year plan in the USSR (the Chakhty trial, the Industrial Party trial and the Vickers affair). As part of the International Congress on Business History in France(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab), she received financial support from BNP Paribas for young researchers. She took part in a round table organised and hosted by Archives & History around her work and was able to exhange ideas with other invited specialists and participants and explore new avenues of research.

Why is it crucial to keep traces of business history? 

M.L. : Companies are a reflection of our society. It is impossible to study our history without studying our companies. And it is in response to the new challenges facing our companies that BNP Paribas has now taken a stance to promote renewable energies, or, going back in time, that it promoted the development of steam power and electricity. Another real-world example: in 1953 the Bank created consumer credit, echoing the new era of homemaking. A project financed by the Bank says a lot about a given country and a given company at a given time. Company archives may seem to be of mere accounting or technical interest, but that’s not true at all! Thanks to them, BNP Paribas is as much an actor as a witness of the history of the transformations that have occurred in society and the economy worldwide, over the past two centuries. That’s why the Group attaches so much importance to the knowledge and dissemination of history and, through its Archives & History department, has endowed itself with a team of specialists dedicated to preserving and enhancing its heritage.

" Thanks to our archives, BNP Paribas is as much an actor as a witness of the history of the transformations that have occurred in society and the economy worldwide, over the past two centuries. "

How does this partnership fit in with your team’s missions?

M.L. : Our partnerships – this congress, the Historia prize, the History YouTubers Prize, or the prize in economic history to trecognise young researchers – meet a dual objective: raising awareness among researchers and reaching out to the general public by promoting greater appreciation of archives-based history. Archives & History – these are two complementary names. We can’t do history without archives, without sources, and the notion of archives is extremely broad. Archives have always been in the form of paper files and the history library; objects, photos, posters, etc. They now also come in the of born-digital archives, such as the Group’s integrated report. Our challenges can be summed up in four Cs: counselling the Bank’s departments to identify what is indeed its historical heritage; collecting these physical and digital resources; conserving them in our preservation centres, meaning setting up all the preventive items so that this heritage can be transmitted to future generations; and, lastly, communicating and providing access to this information to the Bank’s departments and to the outside public. Original documents can be consulted in the reading rooms in Dinan, Paris, Brussels or Rome, or at exhibitions. You can also find all our productions online(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab). Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab) and to contact us(Opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new tab) with any question!

" Our partnerships meet a dual objective: raising awareness among researchers and reaching out to the general public by promoting greater appreciation of archives-based history. "

Learn more about our historical archives:

    3 

conservation centers:      France, Belgium, Italy

     7       linear       km

           worldwide 

3,000

objects in France

Well of History

To find out more about BNP Paribas’ historical archives and how to access our document resources, discover the BNP Paribas Well of History website. 

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