This book originated from the idea that performance is what really matters in business and thus in business history. Yet, surprisingly, the analysis of performances has been neglected by economic and business historians. This book is a first attempt to fill this gap and in doing so provides a totally new approach to European business history. Rather than bringing together national studies, it is based on a single database, measuring performance in eight European countries according to identical criteria. The study spans the entire twentieth century, with particular attention to five benchmark moments: the height of the first globalisation on the eve of the First World War; the late 1920s boom preceding the Great Depression; the European reconstruction of the mid-1950s; the end of 'Golden Age' in the early 1970s; and the height of the second globalisation at the turn of the twenty-first century. The analysis is based on a sample of 1,225 companies, belonging to the three major European economies, Britain, France and Germany; two large south European latecomers, Italy and Spain; two smaller north western countries, Belgium and Sweden, and one small Nordic country, Finland. Performance has been measured using two ratios of profitability: return on equity (ROE) and holding return (HR), thus providing a complementary measure of profitability, the former as seen from the firm's perspective, the latter form the investor's perspective. The book's findings, at times surprising, at once confirm and infirm widely held assumptions regarding business performance - regarding strategy and structure, ownership and control, old and new industries, emerging and advanced economies.