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Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875$
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R. W. Kostal

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198265672

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198265672.001.0001

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A ‘Ruinous System’

A ‘Ruinous System’

Railway Companies and their Lawyers, 1825–1875

(p.322) 8 ARuinous System
Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875

R. W. Kostal

Oxford University Press

From its first organizational moments to its emergence as a leading sector of the English industrial economy, lawyers were an intrinsic part of steam railway capitalism. Solicitors especially, being possessed of a singularly useful combination of legal and commercial skills, were the ubiquitous consultants, confidants, agents, and sometime co-investors of railway entrepreneurs. Between 1825 and 1875 the alliance of railway companies and lawyers passed through three distinguishable phases, two of which are described. In the first phase, 1825–45, the relationship between steam railway companies and their solicitors was influenced mainly by three factors: unbounded optimism in the commercial potential of the industry, spasmodic influxes of enormous amounts of investment capital, and the managerial inexperience (often incompetence) of railway directors and their subalterns. The fourteen-year period 1846–60 frames the second phase of the evolving alliance between lawyers and railway companies. This was a financially difficult and viciously competitive era for the new industry.

Keywords:   steam railway companies, lawyers, solicitors, railway industry, investment capital

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