Faculty Profile

Espen Ekberg

Associate Professor - Department of Law and Governance


B. 1974. Married, two children. 2002, Cand.Polit/M.Sc in Sociology from the University of Oslo. 2002-2004, Scientific assistant at the Institute for Social Research, Oslo. PhD student at the Forum for Contemporary History, University of Oslo 2004-2009. Post doctoral research fellow at the University of Agder and University of Oslo 2009-2012. Researcher at the Centre for Business History, BI Norwegian Business School from July 2012.

Research areas

My research interests have evolved around four main issues.

First, the history of insurance and banking. I recently co-authored (with Christine Myrvang, Sverre August Christensen and Trond Bergh) a commissioned, two volumes/ + 1000 pages book on the history of Norwegian insurance company Storebrand. Currently I am in the process of writing a book on the recent history of Norway’s largest commercial bank, Den norske Bank (DnB). The bank was established by way of a merger between Bergen Bank and Den Norske Creditbank in 1990. The project studies the development of the bank through the major banking crisis of the early 1990s – were the state by way of a rescue operation took control of the majority of the bank’s shares – and how the bank gradually rebuilt itself to become the sole, large Norwegian-owned commercial bank.

Second, maritime economic history. Merchant shipping was the world’s first global industry. Technological, organizational and institutional transformations in seaborne transport played a fundamental role in the phenomenal growth of world trade during the nineteenth and second half of the twentieth century – and hence also in the enforced process of globalization characterizing the world economy during these two periods. My research has sought to explore and highlight the importance of shipping in the globalization of the world economy. Empirically it has focused on the experiences of the Norwegian merchant marine –being, since the mid 1800s, consistently one of the world’s largest merchant fleets – but with an explicit international approach. It has explored questions such as how did Norwegian ship-owners manage to gain such a strong foothold in international shipping from the mid nineteenth century onwards? And, what role did shipowners play in the development of international trade in specific products and hence in the overall growth of world trade during the second half of the twentieth century?

Third, the history of retailing and particularly the history of consumer co-operatives. A consumer co-operative is a distinct form of economic enterprise. Unlike traditional retail enterprises the co-op is owned and democratically controlled by its users (the consumers), and surplus is returned on the basis of use. Consumer co-operatives started to develop in Western Europe from the mid nineteenth century onwards. They soon gained substantial market shares and by the interwar years they were firmly established as an important alternative to traditional forms of capitalist commerce in most Western European countries.

In 2006 I co-authored (with Even Lange, Eivind Merok and Iselin Theien) a book on the history of the consumer co-operative movement in Norway. During this work I was struck by the finding that consumer co-operative enterprises had developed so unevenly in different Western European countries during the post-war period. Not least I was fascinated by the discovery that the Norwegian consumer co-operatives were among those which had developed most successfully. My PhD thesis explored how this development may have come about, by way of a comparative analysis of the development of consumer co-operative trade in Norway and the UK in the period from 1950 to 2002. In later work, I have expanded this comparative approach by including more cases and seeking to explore more generally the reasons for failure and success among consumer co-operatives in western Europe during the post WWII period.

In 2015 I co-authored (with Lars Thue and Christine Myrvang) a commissioned book on the history of the family company Joh Johannson, Norway’s largest grocery wholesaler and one of the main competitors of the consumer co-operative movement in Norway.  

Fourth, the historiography of economic history and business history.  I have been interested in the historical development of business history as a field of research both nationally and internationally, as well as its present day position and role in the academic milieu generally and at business schools more particularly. I have also written on how business history as a distinct field of research field can contribute to larger academic debates on major issues such as economic globalization and the growth of international trade - issues which traditionally have been dominated by economists and other social scientists. 

Publications registered in Cristin

(Current research information system in Norway)

Academic Degrees
Year Academic Department Degree
2008 University of Oslo Ph.D.
2002 University of Oslo Master Cand. Polit.
2008 University of Oslo Ph.D.
2002 University of Oslo Master Cand. Polit.
Work Experience
Year Employer Job Title
2012 - Present BI Norwegian Business School Researcher II
2009 - 2012 University of Agder/University of Oslo Post Doctoral Research Fellow
2004 - 2008 University Of Oslo PhD Student
2002 - 2004 Institute for Social Research Scientific Assistant