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Financial diversification before modern portfolio theory: UK financial advice documents in the late nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century

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  • Janette Rutterford
  • Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos

Abstract

The paper offers textual evidence from a series of financial advice documents in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century of how UK investors perceived of and managed risk. In the world's largest financial centre of the time, UK investors were familiar with the concept of correlation and financial advisers’ suggestions were consistent with the recommendations of modern portfolio theory in relation to portfolio selection strategies. From the 1870s, there was an increased awareness of the benefits of financial diversification – primarily putting equal amounts into a number of different securities – with much of the emphasis being on geographical rather than sectoral diversification and some discussion of avoiding highly correlated investments. Investors in the past were not so naïve as mainstream financial discussions suggest today.

Suggested Citation

  • Janette Rutterford & Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos, 2016. "Financial diversification before modern portfolio theory: UK financial advice documents in the late nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(6), pages 919-945, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:23:y:2016:i:6:p:919-945
    DOI: 10.1080/09672567.2016.1203968
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cheffins, Brian R., 2010. "Corporate Ownership and Control: British Business Transformed," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199596393, Decembrie.
    2. Franck Jovanovic & Geoffrey Poitras, 2006. "Economic Instruments and Theory in the Construction of Henri Lefèvre's "Science of the Stock Market"," Post-Print halshs-00232053, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maxime Merli & Antoine Parent & Cécile Edlinger, 2021. "Portfolio advice before modern portfolio theory: The Belle Epoque of French analyst Alfred Neymarck," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(7), pages 1197-1221, September.
    2. Acheson, Graeme G. & Campbell, Gareth & Gallagher, Áine & Turner, John D., 2018. "Independent women: Shareholders in the age of the suffragettes," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2018-09, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    3. Cécile EDLINGER & Maxime MERLI & Antoine PARENT, 2018. "Financial Diversification before WW1 : A Risk/Return Analysis of Portfolio’s Advice of French Financial Analyst Alfred Neymarck," Working Papers of LaRGE Research Center 2018-03, Laboratoire de Recherche en Gestion et Economie (LaRGE), Université de Strasbourg.
    4. 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.
    5. Dimitris P. Sotiropoulos & Janette Rutterford & Carolyn Keber, 2020. "UK investment trust portfolio strategies before the First World War," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 73(3), pages 785-814, August.
    6. Annaert, Jan & Verdickt, Gertjan, 2021. "Go active or stay passive: Investment trust, financial innovation and diversification in Belgium's early days," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Maxime MERLI & Antoine PARENT, 2022. "Portfolio Diversification During the Belle Époque: When the Actual Portfolios of French Individual Investors Met Behavioral Finance," Working Papers of LaRGE Research Center 2022-01, Laboratoire de Recherche en Gestion et Economie (LaRGE), Université de Strasbourg.
    11. Graeme G. Acheson & Gareth Campbell & Áine Gallagher & John D. Turner, 2021. "Independent women: investing in British railways, 1870–1922," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 74(2), pages 471-495, May.
    12. repec:hal:spmain:info:hdl:2441/5uiggte9218fho46bb53jr7m8a is not listed on IDEAS

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