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Corporate ownership and control in Victorian Britain

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  • Graeme G. Acheson
  • Gareth Campbell
  • John D. Turner
  • Nadia Vanteeva

Abstract

type="main"> Using ownership and control data for 890 firm-years, this article examines the concentration of capital and voting rights in British companies in the second half of the nineteenth century. We find that both capital and voting rights were diffuse by modern-day standards. However, this does not necessarily mean that there was a modern-style separation of ownership from control in Victorian Britain. One major implication of our findings is that diffuse ownership was present in the UK much earlier than previously thought, and given that it occurred in an era with weak shareholder protection law, it somewhat undermines the influential law and finance hypothesis. We also find that diffuse ownership is correlated with large boards, a London head office, non-linear voting rights, and shares traded on multiple markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Graeme G. Acheson & Gareth Campbell & John D. Turner & Nadia Vanteeva, 2015. "Corporate ownership and control in Victorian Britain," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(3), pages 911-936, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:68:y:2015:i:3:p:911-936
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    3. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2016. "Common law and the origin of shareholder protection," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2016-04, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    4. Ingrid Henriksen & Eoin McLaughlin & Paul Sharp, 2015. "Contracts and cooperation: the relative failure of the Irish dairy industry in the late nineteenth century reconsidered," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 412-431.
    5. HANNAH, Leslie, 2018. "Corporate Governance, Accounting Transparency and Stock Exchange Sizes in Germany, Japan and “Anglo-Saxon” Economies, 1870-1950," Discussion paper series HIAS-E-77, Hitotsubashi Institute for Advanced Study, Hitotsubashi University.
    6. Balakrishnan Kavya & Santhakumar Shijin, 2017. "Ownership and Control of Widely and Closely Held Firms in India," Vision, , vol. 21(4), pages 449-460, December.
    7. Leslie Hannah & Robert Bennett, 2022. "Large‐scale Victorian manufacturers: Reconstructing the lost 1881 UK employer census," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(3), pages 830-856, August.
    8. Turner, John D., 2017. "The development of English company law before 1900," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-01, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    9. Eric Hilt, 2014. "History of American Corporate Governance: Law, Institutions, and Politics," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 1-21, December.
    10. John D Turner & Qing Ye & Clive B Walker, 2018. "Media Coverage and Stock Returns on the London Stock Exchange, 1825–70," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 22(4), pages 1605-1629.
    11. Acheson, Graeme & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2019. "Private Contracting, Law and Finance," QBS Working Paper Series 2019/05, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's Business School.
    12. Acheson, Graeme G. & Coyle, Christopher & Turner, John D., 2015. "Happy hour followed by hangover: Financing the UK brewery industry, 1880-1913," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-01, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    13. Campbell, Gareth & Quinn, William & Turner, John D. & Ye, Qing, 2015. "What moved share prices in the nineteenth-century London stock market?," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-06, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    14. David A Bogle & Christopher Coyle & John D Turner, 2022. "Capital market development over the long run: the portfolios of UK life assurers over two centuries [Corporate ownership and control in Victorian Britain]," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 26(3), pages 370-398.
    15. Les Hannah & James Foreman-Peck, 2014. "Ownership dispersion and listing rules in companies large and small: A reply," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(3), pages 509-516, April.
    16. Acheson, Graeme G. & Coyle, Christopher & Jordan, David P. & Turner, John D., 2018. "Share trading activity and the rise of the rentier in the UK before 1920," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2018-04, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    17. Turner, John D., 2024. "Three centuries of corporate governance in the UK," QUCEH Working Paper Series 24-01, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    18. Janette Rutterford & Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos & Carry van Lieshout, 2017. "Individual investors and local bias in the UK, 1870–1935," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1291-1320, November.
    19. Bogle, David A. & Coyle, Christopher & Turner, John D., 2020. "Capital market development over the long run: The portfolios of UK life assurers over two centuries," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2020-09, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    20. Gareth Campbell & William Quinn & John D. Turner & Qing Ye, 2018. "What moved share prices in the nineteenth†century London stock market?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(1), pages 157-189, February.
    21. Bogle, David & Coyle, Christopher & Turner, John D., 2020. "Capital Market Development Over the Long Run: The Portfolios of UK Life Assurers Over Two Centuries," QBS Working Paper Series 2020/11, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's Business School.
    22. Eric Hilt, 2014. "Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts," NBER Chapters, in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 73-102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Lehmann-Hasemeyer, Sibylle H. & Neumayer, Andreas, 2018. "The persistence of ownership inequality: Investors on the German stock exchanges, 1869-1945," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 20-2018, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    24. Jansson, Walter, 2018. "Stock markets, banks and economic growth in the UK, 1850–1913," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(3), pages 263-296, December.
    25. Janette Rutterford & Dimitris Sotiropoulos & Carry van Lieshout, 2015. "Individual investors and local bias in the UK, 1870-1935," Working Papers 15009, Economic History Society.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • N24 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: 1913-

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