For Profit

Full Name
For Profit: A History of Corporations

For Profit traces the history of how corporate innovation has shaped society. In this book, William Magnuson, associate professor at Texas A&M Law School, reveals how corporations have evolved since their beginnings in the ancient world. Throughout history, Magnuson finds, corporations have been purpose-built to benefit the societies that surrounded them. He illuminates the roles corporations played, for good and evil, in the making of the modern world. He also looks at how corporations operate in society but struggles to find a fresh perspective.


―Named a Best Book of 2022 by The Economist and the Financial Times

“Magnuson eloquently explains how issues such as principal-agent problems, competition law and environmental and labour rights have cropped up throughout history.”

The Economist

“A historical tour de force.”

Bloomberg Opinion

“Brilliantly conceived and enlightening at every turn, For Profit is a thrilling history of an institution that has shaped all our lives—for better and for worse.”

Lawrence Wright, author of The Plague Year

“In this lively and informative history of the corporation, William Magnuson shows that corporations were born to serve the public interest—only to be used and abused time and again to maximize profits for shareholders and executives. A must-read for any student of the world’s most influential form of economic organization.”

―Adam Winkler, author of We the Corporations