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‘The Greatest Bubble in History’: Stock Prices during the British Railway Mania


  • Campbell, Gareth
  • Turner, John


Although the British Railway Mania has been described as one of the greatest bubbles in history, it has been largely neglected by academics. This paper attempts to redress this neglect by creating a daily stock price index for the 1843-50 period and by assessing the contribution of the many newly-created railways to the bubble-like pattern in stock prices. The paper then examines whether this bubble-like pattern was due to an increase in the stochastic discount factor arising from an increase in the probability of large-scale adoption of railway technology. We find little evidence to support this hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Campbell, Gareth & Turner, John, 2010. "‘The Greatest Bubble in History’: Stock Prices during the British Railway Mania," MPRA Paper 21820, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21820

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mitchell, B. R., 1964. "The Coming of the Railway and United Kingdom Economic Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(03), pages 315-336, September.
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    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    5. Campbell, Gareth, 2013. "Deriving the railway mania," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 1-27, April.
    6. Acheson, Graeme G. & Hickson, Charles R. & Turner, John D. & Ye, Qing, 2009. "Rule Britannia! British Stock Market Returns, 1825-1870," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(04), pages 1107-1137, December.
    7. Luboš Pástor & Pietro Veronesi, 2009. "Technological Revolutions and Stock Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1451-1483, September.
    8. Acheson, Graeme G. & Turner, John D., 2008. "The secondary market for bank shares in nineteenth-century Britain," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 123-151, October.
    9. Peter M. Garber, 2001. "Famous First Bubbles: The Fundamentals of Early Manias," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262571536, January.
    10. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
    11. Gary S. Shea, 2005. "Understanding financial derivatives during the South Sea Bubble: the case of the South Sea subscription shares," CDMA Working Paper Series 200512, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    12. White, Eugene N, 1990. "The Stock Market Boom and Crash of 1929 Revisited," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 67-83, Spring.
    13. Gary S. Shea, 2007. "Financial market analysis can go mad (in the search for irrational behaviour during the South Sea Bubble) -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(4), pages 742-765, November.
    14. Donaldson, R Glen & Kamstra, Mark, 1996. "A New Dividend Forecasting Procedure That Rejects Bubbles in Asset Prices: The Case of 1929's Stock Crash," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 9(2), pages 333-383.
    15. Carlos, Ann M. & Moyen, Nathalie & Hill, Jonathan, 2002. "Royal African Company Share Prices during the South Sea Bubble," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 61-87, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Campbell, Gareth, 2010. "Leveraging the British Railway Mania: Derivatives for the Individual Investor," MPRA Paper 21822, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Yang Hu & Les Oxley, 2017. "Exuberance in British Share Prices during the Railway Mania of the 1840s: Evidence from the Phillips, Shi and Yu Test," Working Papers in Economics 17/09, University of Waikato.
    3. Hugh Goldsmith, 2014. "The Long-Run Evolution of Infrastructure Services," CESifo Working Paper Series 5073, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item


    bubbles; financial crises; Railway Mania;

    JEL classification:

    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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