Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I

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Studies of the British Industrial Revolution and of the Victorian period of economic and social development have until very recently concentrated on British industries and industrial regions, while commerce and finance, and particularly that of London, have been substantially neglected. This has distorted our view of the process of change because financial services and much trade continued to be centred on the metropolis, and the south-east region never lost its position at the top of the national league of wealth. This is a pioneer survey of the mercantile sector of the economy from the end of the eighteenth century to World War I. It complements Dr. Chapman's The Rise of Merchant Banking (1984), concentrating on the various ways in which British merchants responded to the unprecedented opportunities of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the British Empire. The main conclusion is that industrial entrepreneurs contributed only briefly to merchant ventures, and that with limited success. Rather did the established merchant community evolve its own new forms of enterprise to meet the changing opportunities: the 'new frontier' merchant networks of the Atlantic economy, the international houses in continental trade, the agency houses in the Far East, and the home trade houses dominating the domestic market. These resilient organisations enabled the British merchant enterprise to survive longer and in greater strength than in other Western economies.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521351782
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/1992
  • Pages: 356
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of tables
Abbreviations used in the footnotes
Introduction: approaches and concepts 1
Pt. I The Setting
1 The eighteenth-century structure of merchant enterprise 21
2 The consequences of the Industrial Revolution and the French Wars 51
Pt. II New Streams of Enterprise
3 Merchants in the Atlantic trade 81
4 The agency houses: trade to India and the Far East 107
5 The international houses: the foreign contribution to British mercantile enterprise 129
6 The home trade houses 167
Pt. III Response to Instant Communication
7 Problems of restructuring mercantile enterprise 193
8 British-based investment groups before 1914 231
9 Imperialism and British trade 262
Pt. IV Conclusions
10 Performance of British mercantile enterprise 287
Manuscript sources 319
Index of firms and people 323
Index of places 331
Index of subjects 336
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