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Title: Wealth makes worship : attitudes to joint stock enterprise in British law, politics and culture, c.1800-c.1870
Author: Taylor, James Conrad
ISNI:       0000 0001 3506 8556
Awarding Body: University of Kent at Canterbury
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis takes issue with many of the claims and assumptions of much of the existing historiography on joint stock enterprise in nineteenth-century Britain. Historians have presented the conferral by the state of automatic rights of incorporation on companies in a Whiggish light, as a natural and inevitable step towards a modern economy. Such accounts denigrate opponents of this intervention as ignorant, prejudiced, or self-interested and suggest that opposition was restricted largely to the Conservative Party. The first part of the thesis presents an alternative picture which stresses the coherence, breadth, and depth of antipathy towards joint stock enterprise. This interpretation is based on an extensive reading of popular sources including novels, plays, newspapers, and cartoons, alongside parliamentary papers, law reports, and pamphlets. Part two of the thesis traces changing attitudes towards corporate enterprise, and considers why joint stock companies were accorded legislative sanction between 1844 and 1862. It rejects simplistic accounts which describe this process in terms of the rising tide of free trade and laissez faire, and argues that a significant reconceptualisation of the joint stock company occurred in these years, by which the boundaries between public and private spheres were redrawn. Corporate privileges became viewed as private rights which the state could not justly withhold from joint stock enterprise. The legislative framework constructed between 1844 and 1862 was severely tested by the commercial crisis of 1866, but ultimately the crisis served to entrench rather than to undermine the position of joint stock companies. Despite continued criticism of joint stock enterprise after 1866, it is argued that this was harmless, partly owing to the redefinition of companies as private entities, partly because those concerned by standards of commercial morality thought that the only way to purify commerce was to reform personal behaviour rather than impose legislative solutions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities ; CB History of civilization ; D History (General) ; LA History of education ; HG Finance ; K Law (General) ; KZ Law of Nations