From Monsanto to ‘Monsatan’: Ownership and Control of History as a Strategic Resource

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The conditions under which managers choose a particular mode of deploying history for strategic purposes are poorly understood. This article explores the processes by which managers of a firm with a troubled past—the multinational agribusiness Monsanto—deployed historical interpretation for strategic ends in the latter half of the twentieth century. Our analysis contributes to key debates in strategic management and organizational studies regarding the ambiguous nature of ownership and control of intangible resources such as a firm’s history. We discuss three modes of strategic deployment of history as a resource: learning from the past, selective interpretation, and the currently underdeveloped concept of disowning the past. Our findings and analysis argue that ownership and control are significant but non-binary factors conditioning the strategic value of history as a resource. Furthermore, our findings suggest that attempts to selectively interpret or disown the firm’s past are unlikely to be of strategic value to a firm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1040-1070
Number of pages31
JournalBusiness History
Issue number6
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • resource based view
  • strategic management
  • historical narratives
  • Monsanto
  • agribusiness
  • ownership
  • control
  • biotechnology

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