Information management in business, libraries and British military intelligence: Towards a history of information management

Alistair Black, Rodney Brunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores, historically, that definition of information management (IM) which centres on the ordering and channelling of non-publicly available information within organisations. Whereas IM as a discipline is relatively new, as an activity within modern organisations it has a long history. Three types of organisation are highlighted: the business corporation, the library and the state agency (specifically, British military intelligence). Sophisticated information systems in organisations are a core feature of modernity and can be traced back to the revolution in state administration in the nineteenth century and to the emergence of large corporations from about 1880 onwards. At about the same time, libraries too evolved systematic, internal information flows and regimes, often of a standardised nature dictated by library management theorists. Evidence from the government sphere is also presented: considerable space is given in the study to the role played by IM in the early years of MI5, Britain's counter-espionage and counter-insurgency military intelligence agency. Documents recently released by the Public Record Office, covering the first decade of MI5's history between 1909 and 1919, point to a growing recognition of the importance of IM. In conclusion, a case will be made for the construction of a new subject field of 'Information Management History' which will enrich, particularly through potentially exciting research pathways, not just the established fields of business and administrative history but also the emergent discipline of IM itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-374
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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