Proto-CSR Before the Industrial Revolution: Institutional Experimentation by Medieval Miners¿ Guilds Academic Article in Scopus uri icon


  • © 2019, The Author(s).In this paper, we argue that antecedents of modern corporate social responsibility (CSR) prior to the Industrial Revolution can be referred to as ¿proto-CSR¿ to describe a practice that influenced modern CSR, but which is different from its modern counterparts in form and structure. We develop our argument with the history of miners¿ guilds in medieval Germany¿religious fraternities and secular mutual aid societies. Based on historical data collected by historians and archeologists, we reconstruct a long-term process of pragmatic experimentation with institutions of mutual aid that address social problems in the early mining industry, and thus before the rise of the modern state and the capitalist firm. Co-shaped by economic and political actors, these institutions of mutual aid have influenced the social responsibility programs of early industrialists, modern social welfare legislation, and contemporary CSR. We conjecture that other elements of proto-CSR might have evolved according to similar trajectories.

publication date

  • October 1, 2020