International Business and National War Interests

Unilever between Reich and empire, 1939-45

By Ben Wubs

© 2007 – Routledge

272 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9781138864047
pub: 2015-03-04
US Dollars$59.95
Hardback: 9780415416672
pub: 2008-06-11
US Dollars$170.00

About the Book

This book deals with the activities of the Anglo-Dutch multinational during the war. Given the various threats faced by Unilever during the Nazi period, Ben Wubs argues that it was not self evident that the company would survive the war. Based on research into company sources which were hitherto unavailable, he shows the effect of the war on Unilever as well as the changing conditions in the European food, oil and fats and soap industries.

Wubs makes an analysis of the company’s strategy, structure and performance in this period. Simultaneously, it explores the external conditions, which helped the company to survive the war. The author argues that Unilever survived World War II because the group had prepared itself legally well in advance. As a consequence, the company could easily be split in two autonomous parts. Unilever’s highly decentralized operating structure helped the company to survive the ambitious of the Nazi State. The deteriorating war conditions for Nazi Germany eventually worked to the advantage of the company. Besides, Unilever’s innovative attitude helped the company to adapt to completely new conditions of resource allocation.

Table of Contents

Contents, Chapter 1: Introduction, Chapter 2: Unilever in the 1930s, Chapter 3: Univeler and Nazi Germany, Chapter 4: War Preparations, Chapter 5: Business as Unusual, 1939-1941, Chapter 6: A Reichs Commissioner for the Unilever Group, 1941-1945, Chapter 7: London's Calling, 1941-1945, Chapter 8: The Aftermath 1945-1950, Chapter 9: Conclusions, Appendix

About the Author

Ben Wubs is a Researcher at the Erasmus University and Utrecht University engaged in various projects related to Dutch multinationals, the Dutch business system, and the German hinterland.

About the Series

Routledge International Studies in Business History

Recent years have seen an explosion of research in business history. Business history is now seen variously as a key to understanding a vital aspect of the past, a source of parallels and insights into modern business practice, and a way of understanding the evolution of modern business practice. This series is not limited to any single approach, and explores a wide range of issues and industries.

Authors wishing to submit proposals for publication consideration in the Routledge International Studies in Business History series can contact series editors Jeffrey Fear ( and Christina Lubinski (

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / World War II