A successful British MNE in the backyard of American big business: Explaining the performance of the American and Canadian subsidiaries of Lever Brothers 1888-1914

Andrew David Allan Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    After 1888, Lever Brothers expanded into the United States and Canada. The surviving archival evidence suggests that the Canadian subsidiary was more successful than the American one. This article considers a number of factors that help to explain why this was the case. Some of the factors considered, such as differences between the Canadian and American tariffs, Canada's more robust system of trademark protection, and the absence of an anti-trust law in Canada before 1908, are related to themes very familiar to business historians. This article also applies concepts that are not part of the normal toolkit of business historians. The article draws on the literature on identity economics and argues that the greater success enjoyed by Lever Brothers in Canada was, in part, rooted in Canada's strongly British identity. The impact of identities on the policymakers, managers, and consumers who collectively shaped the two North American subsidiaries is assessed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-160
    Number of pages26
    JournalBusiness History
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014



    • anti-trust legislation
    • British investment in Canada
    • British investment in the United States
    • FDI
    • Lever Brothers
    • Port Sunlight
    • Procter & Gamble
    • protective tariffs
    • trademark law
    • Unilever
    • William Hesketh Lever

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
    • History

    Cite this