A Global Census of Corporations in 1910
Estimates of the extent of the corporate economy in eighty-one countries in 1910, when the number of corporations globally reached about half a million, show that the US and the British Empire alone accounted for three-quarters of these. The aggregate market value of approaching a hundred stock exchanges in the Empire exceeded that of the then similarly numerous US securities markets analyzed in Moody's Manual. However, American corporations outnumbered British ones, because the US had many more, small, private (unquoted and often family-owned) corporations. Continental Europe collectively lagged the Anglosphere both by number and value of corporations. The capitalist institution that now dominates global business thus initially prospered less under the French or German civil law systems-adopted by most world economies-than under English common law and its derivatives. Within these legal families, the corporate form was preferred to the limited partnership almost everywhere that offered simple, cheap and flexible registration for public and private companies. A century later, despite the suppression of the corporation for many decades in some countries, there were many times more corporations in all countries and patterns of adoption were converging. We find substantial differences in 1910 between relatively poor enclave economies with capital-importing corporate sectors and economies at various income levels with a vibrant local small private company sector. This new quantitative perspective challenges some orthodoxies and raises new questions about the relationship between early corporate development and economic outcomes.
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- Kevin H. O’Rourke & Ahmed S. Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2012. "Trade, Technology and the Great Divergence," Departmental Working Papers 35, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
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