The latest imprint from the Modern Library's Chronicles series reads like an engagingly pedantic college survey in corporate history. Exhaustively researched by two Economist veterans, The Company ambitiously tries to prove -- in 200 pages or less -- that corporations have been as influential as politicians or wars in shaping history. And posit that they have shifted globally toward decentralization over the past 30 years. And suggest that we're going overboard in our hysteria about the latest corporate crooks. It's a lot to work in, while also stuffing the pages with amusing details (for example, crediting McDonald's for teaching the Chinese how to queue). But The Company succeeds in serving up history in snack-size bites.