Long-term digital economic data are mainly available at the macro level for Flanders and Belgium. However, new research questions require microdata that are only available in printed form. To make microdata on firms available in computer-readable form, research groups from the universities of Antwerp and Ghent are joining forces.

Belgium has a long tradition of publishing essential data on companies in the Appendices to the Belgian Official Gazette since 1873. In addition, excellent reference works were compiled at the time for the benefit of investors. These sources contain a wealth of information on companies: date of incorporation, (successive) company names, addresses, names (and addresses) of directors and shareholders, balance sheets and profit-and-loss accounts, securities portfolios, information on capital, dividend and interest payments, relations between companies (participation in cartels, (de)mergers, spin-offs, ...).

The research infrastructure "BelHisFirm: long-term firm-level data for the social sciences" will bring all these microdata together in a database and make tools for the visualisation and analysis of the data available to researchers. BelHisFirm will thus enable not only research in business and financial history, but also, among other things, pioneering research on long-term trends in corporate finance, wealth inequality and the economic and financial impact of (de)colonisation.


BelHisFirm is funded by the FWO Research Foundation Flanders large-scale research infrastructure program.

Partners & supervisors

The project is jointly carried out by the Studiecentrum voor Onderneming en Beurs (SCOB) at the University of Antwerp and the Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) at Ghent University. Supervisors Jan Annaert (SCOB chairman) and Christophe Verbruggen (CDH director) both have extensive expertise in research infrastructure development and management. 

To ensure the alignment between data and technology on the one hand and research on the other hand, the consortium  further consists of research groups from both universities: Centre for Urban History (CSG), Centre for Social Policy Herman Deleeck (CSB) and Institute of Development Policy (IOB) at the University of Antwerp, and Economies, Comparisons, Connections (ECC) at Ghent University. It hence brings together experts in corporate finance (co-supervisor Marc Deloof), financial history (co-supervisors Oscar Gelderblom and Johan Poukens), inequality and social policy (co-supervisor Gerlinde Verbist), development finance (co-supervisor Danny Cassimon) and business history (co-supervisors Robrecht Declercq and Julie Birkholz) to support the design of the BelHisFirm research infrastructure