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Leveraging the British Railway Mania: Derivatives for the Individual Investor


  • Campbell, Gareth


During the British Railway Mania of the 1840s the promotion and construction of new railways increased dramatically. These new projects were generally financed by shares with uncalled capital, which allowed investors to make payments on an instalment basis over a period of several years. There is evidence that these assets can be regarded as futures or options, implying that investors were purchasing highly leveraged derivatives. The leverage embedded in these assets multiplied both the positive returns during the boom, and the negative returns during the downturn. It also affected the payment schedule for investors as little capital was required initially, but the subsequent ‘calls for capital’ resulted in deleveraging.

Suggested Citation

  • Campbell, Gareth, 2010. "Leveraging the British Railway Mania: Derivatives for the Individual Investor," MPRA Paper 21822, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21822

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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.
    2. Gary S. Shea, 2005. "Financial Market Analysis Can Go Mad (in the search for irrational behaviour during the South Sea Bubble)," CDMA Working Paper Series 200508, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    3. DETKEN Carsten & SMETS Frank, "undated". "Asset Price Booms and Monetary Policy," EcoMod2003 330700042, EcoMod.
    4. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2009. "Moral and Social Constraints to Strategic Default on Mortgages," Economics Working Papers ECO2009/27, European University Institute.
    5. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Negative equity and foreclosure: Theory and evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 234-245, September.
    6. Campbell, Gareth, 2010. "Cross-Section of a ‘Bubble’: Stock Prices and Dividends during the British Railway Mania," MPRA Paper 21821, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-654, May-June.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
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    More about this item


    bubbles; financial crises; Railway Mania;

    JEL classification:

    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • N23 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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