The bulk of American historians have relegated the study of corporations to the subfield of business history. Business historians have thrived on the neglect of their colleagues and created an impressive body of literature that should be better integrated into the larger narratives of American and Canadian history.
A whole series of studies over the last twenty years dubbed neoinstitutionalism have stressed the interactions in various nations of politics, institutions, and economics to explain differences in development and these have considerable persuasive power, but they often suffer, as Charles Perrow has noted, from a tendency to have these factors solidify into a set of national highways to development that seem to have entrances but no exits. History becomes so path dependent, and thus seemingly inevitable, that both the actual actors -- the bankers, actors, managers, judges, politicians -- recede and the bitter conflicts that corporations provoked tend to disappear.
Although scholars until recently have emphasized the comparative weakness of the American state, the federal government was hardly weak between 1860 and 1876. The classic work here is Richard Bensel, Yankee Leviathan,
I am hardly the first historian to both admire and struggle against Wiebe's artful and capacious narrative, but my technique is a little different in that I focus on the railroad corporation as both modern and disorderly.
Using other people's money is, as Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, what entrepreneurs do. "...risk bearing is no part of the entrepreneurial function. It is the capitalist who bears the risk. The entrepreneur does so only to the extent to which, besides being an entrepreneur, he is also a capitalist, but qua entrepreneur he loses other people's money."