BelHisFirm: long-term firm-level data for the social sciences

The project aims at constructing an all-compassing historical database on Belgian companies from 1873 onwards. The objective is to capture into one overarching database all important information on companies and banks such as accounting data, portfolio data, ownership data on stocks, take-overs, mergers and demergers, all significant corporate events (e.g. introduction of multiple voting rights), foreign direct investments and high frequency stock and bond data. All data will be stored in its original format, but will also be transformed into present-day formats, enabling analysis over time. For accounting data a software system to enable this has already been developed. All this will open the “black box” of all that happened during the various life stages of a company, as seen from perspective of several stakeholders. As such, it will provide the big data needed to investigate in a systematic way why certain developments evolved as they did, both at the company level, but also at the industry-level and even on an economy-wide scale. As such we hope to provide the impetus for undertaking rigorous research in many subdomains of the social sciences, especially on phenomena that change only gradually and for which long-term data are therefore of utmost importance.

Belhisfirm is a collaboration between the Study Center for Companies and Exchanges (SCOB, supervised by prof. dr. Jan Annaert) and Ghent University.  SCOB built a database with long-term financial market data for Belgium for research in finance. 

Using CLARIAH-VL tools and services, GhentCDH (supervisor: prof. dr. Christophe Verbruggen) will develop a data extraction pipeline and collaborative data management and visualisation platform. At Ghent University, the consortium brings together the expertise of digital humanists (co-supervisor: prof.dr. Julie Birholz) with economic historians (co-supervisor: dr. Robrecht Declercq and dr. Jan Vandersmissen).

Image from: Vandersmissen and Verbruggen 2023.


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