This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Monday 15 April 2024, 3pm to 4.30pm
  • Location: In-person only
    CL/A/103 (Boardroom), Church Lane Building, Campus West, University of York (Map)
  • Audience: Open to staff, students (postgraduate researchers only)
  • Admission: Free admission, booking not required

Event details

Paper 1: “Local Patriots: Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Prosociality, Politics, and Place, 1846-1930.”

Niall MacKenzie (University of Glasgow)


Drawing from the literature strands of philanthropy, business, and history, this work explores the business, prosocial, and political activities of a prominent family in the Scotch whisky industry, with specific emphasis on its impact on a place – the city of Perth, Scotland. In our analysis we tell the story of the Dewar’s Scotch whisky company, its founder John Dewar Sr, his two sons John Alexander and Tommy, and their journey of prosocial place-based service and giving. Consistent throughout are the themes of global success, family, local and national networks and regional embeddedness, and the role of formal and informal giving. Dewar’s Scotch whisky grew from a local wine and spirits merchant located on the high street of Perth into a global multinational and one of the dominant Scotch whisky brands during the second generation under the brothers’ direction. During the firm’s growth, both brothers occupied significant public political roles at both local and national levels whilst steering the company to ever greater success. However, concomitant with their private and public success in business and politics was an ongoing commitment to their hometown of Perth, with this first manifest in public service roles akin to those of their father, then public recognition through ennoblement, with this followed by philanthropic giving to their hometown separate from their company’s own activities. Yet, while business historians have increasingly recognised the value in exploring philanthropy in recent years, to date there remains a relative lacuna of studies considering the role of place in giving and service within historical contexts. Our intention therefore is to address this gap by offering a detailed analysis of the prosocial activities that are often unexplored dimensions of business success by placing them in both spatial and temporal contexts. Within this is the story of a multi-generational family business’ international growth and success. 

Paper 2: “Trade associations as intermediaries of corporate political activity: The Scotch Whisky Association and the United States Tariff Commission,  c1940-c1970.”

Julie Bower (Birmingham City University) and David M. Higgins (Newcastle University Business School)


This paper is concerned with corporate political activity (CPA) and the role of trade associations. We present an historically informed case study of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), between c1940 and c 1970, to illustrate the fundamental role it played in protecting the Scotch whisky industry in its key export market, the US. We  illuminate the relationship between the SWA and the SWA’s legal counsel in the US,  Ansel Luxford.  Our  study shows that the SWA, via Luxford, skilfully managed to avoid becoming embroiled in a trade dispute  which principally involved the penetration of the US whisky market by the Canadian producers, Hiram Walker and Seagrams.  Our principal finding is that successful interaction with a foreign government, and its agencies, is facilitated by the employment of experienced legal counsel, and the existence of a bilateral inter-governmental relationship.

About the speakers

Niall G. MacKenzie is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Business History at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. He currently serves as Editor in Chief of Business History and holds research associate positions at the Centre for Business History, University of Glasgow and the Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.  His research interests cover the histories of Scotch whisky, aluminium, and nuclear power, as well as more contemporarily focused work on entrepreneurial universities and technology. He was recently awarded a British Academy Innovation Fellowship to write the history and economic impact of Scottish angel investment.

Julie Bower is a Senior Lecturer in Management at Birmingham City University. She completed a PhD in the Centre for Management under Regulation at Warwick Business School after a prior career in investment banking, where she was a director and team leader for UK and European alcoholic beverages industry investment analysis. She has published in and referees for the leading international business history journals.

David M. Higgins is a Professor of Accounting and Finance at Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He has published numerous articles on the business-economic history of trade marks and merchandise marks. He is the author of Brands, Geographical Origin  and the Global Economy (Cambridge, 2018), and National Brands and Global Markets (Routledge, 2023).