SOAS University of London

SOAS celebrates former Professor and highly influential economist, Edith Penrose

6 November 2014
Edith Penrose

SOAS, University of London will host a conference to celebrate the work and legacy of Professor Edith Penrose, one of the most influential and significant economists of the 20th Century.

Best known for her seminal contribution on the growth of the firm published in 1959, some 60 years later her work remains important for understanding how firms expand in today's economic climate.

Her book ‘The Theory of the Growth of the Firm’ is recognised as a ‘genuine classic’ by Oxford University Press who published a 50-year anniversary edition in 2009 - and with more than 20,000 citations, is arguably one of the most significant economics books of the 20th Century.

Born in 1914, Penrose spent much of her academic career as Professor of Economics at SOAS, having previously held a joint appointment at LSE and SOAS. As well as the theory of the firm, her research included the international patent system and innovation; multinational firms and foreign investment; oil companies and the economies of the Middle East; and economic development.  

Penrose's work paved the way for teaching and research on the economics and management of firms.  Her magnum opus established a new approach to the study of how businesses grow and led to the development of 'the resource based view of the firm' – now highly influential in two disciplines: management and economics.

Professor Christine Oughton, Head of the Department of Financial and Management Studies at SOAS, said: “Edith Penrose was a remarkable person. She was a visionary whose work contributed to a new general theory of the growth of firms.  As well as her outstanding contribution to research and scholarship Edith Penrose’s work provides valuable insights for managers and investors keen to see their businesses survive and grow.  The scale of her contribution can be gauged by its influence on current research in management and economics and by the fact that the practical lessons that flow from ‘The Theory of the Growth of the Firm’ remain as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1959.”

Professor Laurence Harris said, “Edith Penrose’s perspective was international and engaged, as exemplified by her study of large multinational oil corporations (the seven sisters), the economies of the Middle East and questions of economic development. At SOAS her leadership in the 1960s and 1970s laid the foundations for research and teaching in economics, development studies, management and strategy, and I am delighted that the Department of Financial and Management Studies is marking her centenary with this conference.”

The conference will take place on 14 and 15 November 2014 at The Brunei Lecture Theatre, SOAS University of London, Russell Square London WC1H 0XG and has been jointly organised by the Department of Financial and Management Studies at SOAS, INSEAD Fontainebleau, and the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies.