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Corporate Ownership and ControlBritish Business Transformed$
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Brian R. Cheffins

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199236978

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199236978.001.0001

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Up to 1880

Up to 1880

(p.133) FIVE Up to 1880
Corporate Ownership and Control

Brian R. Cheffins

Oxford University Press

England experienced its first flurry of public offerings of company shares in the 1690s, followed by promotion ‘waves’ in 1720 (‘the South Sea Bubble’), the mid-1820s, the mid-1830s, and the mid-1840s. Corporate enterprise thus generally grew in importance over time and by the mid-19th century large railway companies had emerged as pioneers of 20th century-style dispersed share ownership. Overall, however, progress was erratic, with periodic waves of enthusiasm for shares being followed by market reversals that swept away many of the new businesses. Moreover, despite Britain experiencing the world's first industrial revolution, few UK manufacturing enterprises had moved to the stock market before the late 19th century. Law was one deterrent but market dynamics were more important, in that industrial enterprises were risky investments and industrialists were disinclined to seek outside investment due to modest capital requirements and a strong sense of independence.

Keywords:   joint stock companies, South Sea Bubble, industrial revolution, canals, railway companies, company law, investor sentiment, limited liability, provincial stock exchanges

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