Up to 1880
Up to 1880
England experienced its first flurry of public offerings of company shares in the 1690s, followed by promotion ‘waves’ in 1720 (‘the South Sea Bubble’), the mid-1820s, the mid-1830s, and the mid-1840s. Corporate enterprise thus generally grew in importance over time and by the mid-19th century large railway companies had emerged as pioneers of 20th century-style dispersed share ownership. Overall, however, progress was erratic, with periodic waves of enthusiasm for shares being followed by market reversals that swept away many of the new businesses. Moreover, despite Britain experiencing the world's first industrial revolution, few UK manufacturing enterprises had moved to the stock market before the late 19th century. Law was one deterrent but market dynamics were more important, in that industrial enterprises were risky investments and industrialists were disinclined to seek outside investment due to modest capital requirements and a strong sense of independence.
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