Alfred Du Pont Chandler, Jr. (born 1918) was an American historian specializing both in biographies of American business leaders and in the organization and administration of large industrial enterprises.
Alfred Du Pont Chandler, Jr., was born in Guyencourt, Delaware, on September 15, 1918, son of Alfred DuPont and Carol Remsay Chandler. He studied at Harvard, receiving his degree in 1940 just in time to join the United States Navy. While serving in the Navy, he married Kay Martin in 1944. Discharged in 1945, Chandler returned to Harvard to study history, receiving his Ph.D. in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1952.
His professional career began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950, where he was an associate researcher. He then became a faculty member and remained at M.I.T. until 1963, with a break to become a researcher at Harvard in 1953 and Guggenheim Fellow in 1958.
Chandler did an apprenticeship as assistant editor of The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt under the guidance of Elting M. Morison and John M. Blum from 1950 to 1953. Later, when the opportunity arose to draft the Eisenhower documents. His first book was a biography, Henry Varnum Poor, Business Editor, Analyst, and Reformer (1956), which was indicative of his interest in the history of businessmen, businesses and commercial organizations. This book also showed his belief in the bourgeois nature of reform movements in the United States.
When M.I.T. Chandler was also an academic advisor at Naval War College in 1954. His second book, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise, was a study of organizational behavior that won a Newcomen award for 1962. This study also favored his reputation as a business historian, and the following year he moved to Johns Hopkins University.
In those days Johns Hopkins Chandler continued his productivity even though he took on additional responsibilities as director of the Center for Study of Recent American History in 1964 and president of the department in 1966. He also became chairman of the Historical Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1969, a position he held until 1977.
While he was busy with these administrative tasks, Chandler still found time to write. In 1964 he published Giant Enterprise: Ford, General Motors and the Automobile Industry, and in 1965 he edited a book entitled The Railroads. His greatest intellectual energy, however, was devoted to editing.
by The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, appeared in five volumes in 1970. His deputy editor, Steven B. Ambrose, became a well-known scholar of Eisenhower.
In 1970 Chandler was the Visiting Fellow of the Thomas Henry Carroll Ford Foundation at Harvard. He remained at Harvard as Strauss Professor of Business History at the Graduate School of Business, although he was also a visiting fellow at All Souls, Oxford, and visiting professor at the European Institute in Washington. In the same year he was a visiting fellow at Harvard and was also a member of the National Advertising Council’s Committee on Educational and Professional Development.
During his tenure at Harvard, Chandler continued to write. In 1971, together with Stephen Salsbury, he published Pierre S. du Pont and the Making of the Modern Corporation. In 1977 he published what was his most famous book, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. The book was the culmination of Chandler’s thinking on how American business works and won the Pulitzer and Bancroft awards in 1978. These were not the only awards Chandler received. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1977-1978 he was president of the Business History Conference. The most appropriate recognition is that of John Higham, who exonerated Chandler from “the deadly plague” that had prevented other senior historians from doing their culminating work in the 1960s and 1970s.
Since then he wrote The essential Alfred Chandler: Essays Toward a Historical Theory of Big Business (1988), and his Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism was written with the help of Takashi Hikino (1990). Scale and Scope was hailed as an indispensable historical reference spanning three quarters of the 20th century. In the book Chandler compares the European economic environment with that of the United States. He assessed the importance of the corporate structure for performance and market success. Chandler was nicknamed the “Dean of American business history” by Financial World in 1991.
Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. retired from Harvard Business School on June 30, 1989.
More info about Alfred Du Pont Chandler Jr
There’s a shortage of material on Chandler. John Higham’s favourable commentary is taken from the epilogue of his 1983 edition of History, but it is only a brief consideration. Equally brief are the references to Chandler in Georg G. Iggers and Harold T. Parker, International Handbook of Historical Studies (1979).
Other biographical sources
Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., The essential Alfred Chandler: Essays Towards a historical theory of big business, Harvard Business School Press, 1988.
Chandler, Alfred D. Jr., Scale and scope: The dynamics of industrial capitalism, Belknap Press, 1990.
Forbes, 13 November 1989.
The New Republic, On December 10, 1990.