Oldham capitalism and the rise of the Lancashire textile industry
The joint stock company, centred on Oldham, is a central narrative in Douglas Farnie’s seminal book, the English Cotton Industry and the World Market. Farnie was the first to highlight the idiosyncratic nature of these limited companies, including their highly democratic system of governance. Documenting the collapse of this system is a useful post-script to Farnie’s analysis. The chapter will extend Farnie’s contribution by examining new evidence in the pre-1896 period. It will then go on to document subsequent developments after 1896 and show that changes in governance had serious consequences for the industry. Cliques of mill owners, and the speculative stock market capitalism they engendered, promoted over-expansion of the industry and financial instability. The over-expansion of the 1907 boom was repeated with disastrous consequences in the re-capitalisation boom of 1919. It will be shown that the activities of networks local directors, which had been established pre 1914, not financial syndicates, banks, trade unions or government, were responsible for the collapse that precipitated the industry’s long decline.
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