Purpose - This paper seeks to present an analysis of the historical emergence of international business and management studies (IBMS) within the context of the post-World War II USA. It seeks to show how certain conditions of this time and place shaped the orientation of foundational IBMS texts and set a course for the subsequent development of the field. Design/methodology/approach - The approach is primarily conceptual. The paper pursues both a historical analysis and a close reading of foundational texts within IBMS. It first examines the key conditions for the emergence of IBMS including: the internationalization of the US economy and businesses; the Cold War and perceived expansion of Soviet interests; and finally decolonisation processes around the world. These are interrelated aspects of a commercial-military-political complex, which simultaneously enabled and constrained the emergence of IBMS scholarship. The paper moves on to link these conditions to two seminal IBMS texts. Findings - The paper reveals the localised and particular conditions that surrounded the emergence of IBMS and how IBMS was constituted to serve particular and localised interests associated with those conditions.