The Disconto-Gesellschaft and German industrialization : a critical examination of the career of a German universal bank 1851-1914
This thesis uses the history of the Disconto-Gesellschaft to argue that the role of universal banks in fostering German industrialization was less than has previously been assumed. The archive of the Disconto-Gesellschaft is not currently accessible, so the thesis will use industrial archives to examine the bank's relations with industrial companies. After a discussion of the literature, a summary of other Disconto-Gesellschaft ventures shows that the Dortmunder Union was not an isolated disaster, but one among many. The thesis discusses the boom of 1867-1873 and. suggests it was engendered by a spate of railway building which fed into heavy industry. The next section recounts how the collapse of universal banks during financial crises led most countries outside Germany to separate commercial from investment banking either by law or by custom. The first chapter concludes with a discussion of how German industry raised capital. The second chapter discusses the origins of the Disconto- Gesellschaft; David Hansemann's introduction of a new corporate form, the Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien; the Disconto- Gesellschaft' s rise during the crisis of 1859, relations with competitors, internal structure and the character of its management and supervisory board. The third chapter treats the history of the Dortmunder Union, and the reasons for its failure. The fourth chapter discusses Krupp's difficulties in raising funds; how the Disconto-Gesellschaft coped with the problem of lending to two competing firms, Krupp and the Union; and management of this conflict through the rail cartel. The fifth chapter uses the correspondence of Kirdorf and Russell to discuss the coal industry's plight in the 1870's, and the reasons for the success of the Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks-Actien-Gesellschaft. The conclusion suggests that private banks were more successful in financing industry than universal banks like the Disconto-Gesellschaft because their great number meant that even a Krupp could find a private banker who believed in him, and because their narrow capital bases prevented them from keeping lame ducks alive.