Industrializing English Law: Entrepreneurship and Business Organization, 1720-1844

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Legal stasis in the face of rapid economic change poses serious challenges to deterministic and functional interpretations in the theory of law, institutions, and economic performance. This book explores a particularly important example: the slow and contradictory development in the law of business organization in England during the critical phase of the Industrial Revolution. Based on extensive primary source research, Ron Harris shows how the institutional development of major forms of business organization - the business corporation, the partnership, the trust, the unincorporated company - evolved during this period. He also demonstrates how this slow and peculiar path of legal change interacted with and affected the practice of individual entrepreneurs and the transformation of the English economy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Harris's study of the history of the forms of business association is an important one, written by an author with a mastery of a large body of literature..." Michigan Law Review

"...[an] innovative study." Journal of Modern History

"...[here] is a book with which every student of the modern business organization should be acquainted and that specialists in modern English history need to master." Henry Horwitz, Business History Review

"This monography is the most exhaustive historical survey of English business organization ever published. It is certain to become the standard reference work for scholars interested both in the legal moulds of English capitalism in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and in the interaction of legal and non-legal dimensions of economic activity in this critical period...Industrializing English Law_is a formidable work of synthesizing scholarship. A vast and disparate body of historical writing has been expertly leavened by relevant primary sources. the book's great strength is its carefully rendered ecology of business forms and economic sectors." EH.NET Jun. 01

"Harris's study of the history of the forms of business association is an important one, written by an author with a mastery of a large body of literature, and always related to empirical evidence though continuously informed by a concern with theoretical issues. It is clearly written...Like all good books it does not impose closure, but raises and suggests further lines of enquiry. It is a fine book that deserves a wide readership." Michigan Law Review

"A model study of the evolution of a technology, broadly defined." Technology and Culture

"This is an important work. It vastly improves our knowledge not only of the development of business organizations during a most critical period but also expands our understanding of the nexus between the English legal and business worlds." American Historical Review

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Tables xiii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction 1
1 The Legal Framework 14
Legal Conceptions of Group Association 15
The Corporation 16
The Partnership 19
The Trust 21
Features of Business Organizations 22
Legal Personality, Managerial Hierarchy, and Limitation of Liability 23
Transferable Joint-Stock Capital 24
Court Jurisdiction 25
Forms of Business Organization 27
The Sole Proprietorship 27
The Closed Family Firm 27
The General Partnership 28
The Limited Partnership 29
The Quasi-Joint-Stock Partnership 31
The Unincorporated Joint-Stock Company 31
The Regulated Corporation 32
The Joint-Stock Corporation 33
The Mutual Association 33
The Nonbusiness and Nonprofit Organization 36
Part I Before 1720
2 The Pre-1720 Business Corporation 39
From Origins to Heyday: The 1550s to the 1620s 40
The Decline: The 1620s to the 1680s 46
The Rise of the Moneyed Companies: The 1680s to 1720 53
3 The Bubble Act, Its Passage, and Its Effects 60
The Proper Context: Bubble Companies or National Debt 61
Three Explanations for the Passage of the Act 64
From Bill to Act 65
The South Sea Company Lobby 68
The Anti-Bubbles Lobby 70
The Public and the Government 71
Conclusion: Why Was the Bubble Act Passed? 73
The Bubble Act: A Turning Point? 78
Part II 1721-1810
4 Two Distinct Paths of Organizational Development: Transport and Insurance 85
Transport 86
The Emergence of the Turnpike Trust 86
The Organization of River Navigation Improvement 90
The Coming of the Joint-Stock Canal Corporations 95
Insurance 100
The Early Companies: Before 1720 100
The 1720s to the 1750s 102
The 1760s and the 1770s 103
The 1790s and the 1800s 106
Insurance: The End Point 107
Conclusion: Two Paths of Organization 108
5 The Joint-Stock Business Corporation 110
Legal Personality 110
The Raising and Transferability of Joint Stock 114
Capital Formation 114
The Legal Nature of Corporate Shares 117
The Stock Market 118
Limited Liability 127
Entry Barriers 132
6 Trusts, Partnerships, and the Unincorporated Company 137
The Appropriate Legal Framework 139
The Lack of Legal Entity 141
Continuity 142
Liability 143
Governance 144
Litigation Using Common Name 144
Statutory and Other Implications 145
The Role of the Trust 147
The Evolution of the Trust 147
The Origins of the Trust 148
The Strict Settlement Trust 149
The Investment Trust 150
The Unincorporated Company Trust 152
The Assets to be Vested in the Trust 152
The Trustees' Perspective 153
The Beneficiaries' Perspective 156
The Role of the Trust: A Reappraisal 158
The Unincorporated Company in Court Litigation 159
Partnership as a Common-Law Conception 159
The Obsoleteness of Common-Law Account Action 160
The Rise and Limitations of Equity Account 162
The Crisis at the Court of Chancery 163
Conclusion 165
7 The Progress of the Joint-Stock Organization 168
The Starting Point: Circa 1740 170
Sectoral Survey 173
Textile Industries 173
Metal Industries 177
Food Industries 178
Utilities 182
Banking 183
Overseas Trade 183
Fisheries 184
Sectors Outside the Realm of Common Law 186
Ship Ownership 186
Mining 190
The End Point: Circa 1810 193
Aggregate Estimation 193
The Importance of the Joint-Stock Organization in the Economy at Large 194
Concluding Remarks 198
Part III 1800-1844
8 The Attitudes of the Business Community 201
The Promoters of the New Companies and Their Foes 202
The Conflict over the Old Monopolies 203
Trade Monopolies and the East India Company 204
The Marine Insurance Corporate Monopoly 207
The Bank of England Monopoly 211
Conclusion 215
Booms and Crises 216
The Early 19th Century 216
The Boom of 1825 216
The Progress of the Joint-Stock Companies: 1826-1844 218
Hostility to Speculation in Shares 223
9 The Joint-Stock Company in Court 230
The Judiciary 231
The Revival of the Bubble Act 235
Litigation: 1808-1812 236
Litigation During the Boom of 1825 241
The Reinvention of the Common Law 245
10 The Joint-Stock Company in Parliament 250
The Boom of 1824-1825 and the Repeal of the Bubble Act 250
Liberal Toryism and the Parliamentary Background 250
The Rush on Parliament 254
The Debates in Parliament 256
Peter Moore's Bubble Act Repeal Bill 262
The Repeal of the Bubble Act 265
Tory and Whig Governments after the Repeal: 1827-1841 268
Return to Incorporation by the Crown 270
Limited Liability Partnership 273
The Rise of the Concept of Registration 274
The Select Committee of 1841 277
Peel's Conservative Administration, 1841-1844 278
The Parliamentary Committee 279
The Companies Act of 1844 and Its Significance 282
Laissez-Faire or Intervention? 285
Conclusion 287
Appendix 1 The Rise and Decline of the Major Trading Corporations 295
Appendix 2 Capital of Joint-Stock Companies Circa 1810 297
Bibliography 301
Index of Cases 323
Index of Statutes 325
General Index 326
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