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Law and Finance c. 1900


  • Aldo Musacchio


How persistent are the effects of legal institutions adopted or inherited in the distant past? A substantial literature argues that legal origins have persistent effects that explain clear differences in investor protections and financial development around the world today (La Porta et al, 1998, 1999 and passim). This paper examines the persistence of the effects of legal origins by examining new estimates of different indicators of financial development in more than 20 countries in 1900 and 1913. The evidence presented does not yield robust results that can sustain the hypothesis of persistence effects of legal origin, but it is not powerful enough to reject it either. Then the paper examines if there were systematic differences in the extent of investor protections across countries, since that is the main channel through which legal origin affects financial development, and shows that all the evidence supports the idea of relative convergence in corporate governance practices across legal families circa 1900. The paper concludes that, if the evidence presented is representative, the variation observed in financial development around the world today is likely a product of events of the twentieth century rather than a consequence of long-term (and persistent) differences occasioned by legal traditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Aldo Musacchio, 2010. "Law and Finance c. 1900," NBER Working Papers 16216, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16216
    Note: DAE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Legal Origins," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1193-1229.
    3. Djankov, Simeon & McLiesh, Caralee & Shleifer, Andrei, 2007. "Private credit in 129 countries," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 299-329, May.
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    5. La Porta, Rafael & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. " Legal Determinants of External Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(3), pages 1131-1150, July.
    6. Fohlin, Caroline, 2007. "Does Civil Law Tradition and Universal Banking Crowd out Securities Markets? Pre-World War I Germany as Counter-Example," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 602-641, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Degryse, Hans & Lambert, Thomas & Schwienbacher, Armin, 2013. "The Political Economy of Financial Systems: Evidence from Suffrage Reforms in the Last Two Centuries," CEPR Discussion Papers 9621, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Turner, John D., 2014. "Financial history and financial economics," QUCEH Working Paper Series 14-03, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    3. Alvaro Aguirre, 2017. "Contracting Institutions and Economic Growth," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 24, pages 192-217, March.
    4. Pavel Ševcík, 2012. "Financial Contracts and the Political Economy of Investor Protection," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 163-197, October.
    5. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • N20 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - General, International, or Comparative


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