Creating Capitalism

Creating Capitalism

Joint-Stock Enterprise in British Politics and Culture, 1800-1870

James Taylor


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The growth of joint-stock business in Victorian Britain re-evaluated, showing in particular the resistance to it.
Winner of the Economic History Society's Best First Monograph award 2009

The emergence of the joint-stock company in nineteenth-century Britain was a culture shock for many Victorians. Though the home of the industrial revolution, the nation's economy was dominated by the private partnership, seen as the most efficient as well as the most ethical form of business organisation. The large, impersonal company and the rampant speculation it was thought to encourage were viewed with suspicion and downright hostility.
This book argues that the existing historiography understates society's resistance to joint-stock enterprise, employing an eclectic range of sources, from newspapers and parliamentary papers to cartoons, novels and plays, to unearth this forgotten economic debate. It explores how the legal system was gradually restructured to facilitate joint-stock enterprise, a process culminating in the limited liability legislation of the mid-1850s. This has typically been interpreted as evidence for the emergence of new, positive attitudes to speculation and economic growth, but the book demonstrates how traditional outlooks continued to influence legislation, and the way in which economic reforms were driven by political agendas. It shows how debates on the economic culture of nineteenth-century Britain are strikingly relevant to current questions over the ethics of multinational corporations.

JAMES TAYLOR is Senior Lecturer in British History at Lancaster University.

Table of Contents

Companies, Character and Competition
The Sins of Speculation
Change Contained, 1800-1840
Reform or Retrogression? Free Incorporation, 1840-1862
Limited Liability on Trial: the Commercial Crisis of 1866


A very interesting, well-argued, and well documented study of the rise of joint-stock enterprise that explores the political and cultural milieu within which legal reforms occurred. NINETEENTH CENTURY STUDIES
A splendid addition to the Royal Historical Society's series "Studies in History", which is providing a valuable outlet for some of the best new post-doctoral research in Britain. [...] Anyone reading it cannot fail to be struck by its quality. It should enhance considerably [the author's] reputation as one of the finest young historians in the country. ECONOMIC HISTORY REVIEW
Makes an important contribution to our understanding of why joint-stock enterprise became such an established element within Britain in the mid-nineteenth century.
[A] well researched and well written book. EH.NET-Review
Taylor breaks with earlier historiography [and] develops his own explanation of events by the bold concept of invading the nineteenth-century imagination. This is achieved with aplomb, through a wise and convincing blend of sources conventionally used by business historians, along with more novel material, notably cultural and literary sources, peppered with a dozen pertinent cartoons reproduced in these pages. ENTERPRISE AND SOCIETY,

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