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The death blow to unlimited liability in Victorian Britain: The City of Glasgow failure

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  • Acheson, Graeme G.
  • Turner, John D.

Abstract

In 1878, one of Britain's largest banks, the City of Glasgow Bank, collapsed, leaving a huge deficit between its assets and liabilities. As this bank, similar to many other contemporary British banks, had unlimited liability, its failure was accompanied by the bankruptcy of the vast majority of its stockholders. It is generally believed that the collapse of this depository institution revealed the extent to which ownership in large joint-stock banks had been diffused to investors of very modest means. It is also believed that the failure resulted in bank shareholders dumping their shares unto the market. Our evidence, garnered from ownership records, trading data, and stock prices, offers no support for these widely held beliefs.

Suggested Citation

  • Acheson, Graeme G. & Turner, John D., 2008. "The death blow to unlimited liability in Victorian Britain: The City of Glasgow failure," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 235-253, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:45:y:2008:i:3:p:235-253
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    Cited by:

    1. Rodríguez Braun, Carlos, 2014. "La banca y las crisis financieras en la literatura popular: Una fortuna peligrosa, de Ken Follett /Banking and Financial Crises in Popular Literature: A Dangerous Fortune, by Ken Follett," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 32, pages 201-222, Enero.
    2. Graeme G. Acheson & John D. Turner, 2011. "Investor behaviour in a nascent capital market: Scottish bank shareholders in the nineteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(1), pages 188-213, February.
    3. John D. Turner, 2009. "Wider share ownership?: investors in English and Welsh Bank shares in the nineteenth century -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(s1), pages 167-192, August.
    4. Campbell, Gareth & Coyle, Christopher & Turner, John D., 2016. "This time is different: Causes and consequences of British banking instability over the long run," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 74-94.
    5. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2016. "Common law and the origin of shareholder protection," eabh Papers 16-03, The European Association for Banking and Financial History (EABH).
    6. 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.
    7. Toms, Steven, 2015. "Fraud and Financial Scandals: A Historical Analysis of Opportunity and Impediment," MPRA Paper 68255, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Salter, Alexander W. & Veetil, Vipin & White, Lawrence H., 2017. "Extended shareholder liability as a means to constrain moral hazard in insured banks," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 153-160.
    9. Paolo Maggioni, 2011. "Limited liability and shares’ pricing: sufficient but not necessary," Openloc Working Papers 1115, Public policies and local development.
    10. Button, Richard & Knott, Samual & Macmanus, Conor & Willison, Matthew, 2015. "Desperate adventurers and men of straw: the failure of City of Glasgow Bank and its enduring impact on the UK banking system," Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, Bank of England, vol. 55(1), pages 23-35.
    11. Ilgmann, Cordelius, 2011. "The advent of corporate limited liability in Prussia 1843," CAWM Discussion Papers 46, University of Münster, Center of Applied Economic Research Münster (CAWM).
    12. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John D., 2015. "Who financed the expansion of the equity market? Shareholder clienteles in Victorian Britain," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    13. Richard S. Grossman & Masami Imai, 2011. "Contingent Capital and Bank Risk-Taking among British Banks before World War I," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2011-003, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.

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