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Numbers, Character and Trust in Early Victorian Britain:The Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company Fraud

Taylor, James (2011) Numbers, Character and Trust in Early Victorian Britain:The Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company Fraud. In: Statistics and the Public Sphere. Routledge Studies in Modern British History . Routledge, pp. 185-202. ISBN 978-0-415-87894-4

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Abstract

The development of the joint-stock company in the nineteenth century challenged the foundations on which business had hitherto been based. Given the scale of company operations, it was unlikely that investors would have direct contact with boards of directors. Companies therefore developed mechanisms to foster trust in the new impersonal economy. This chapter identifies a tension between new forms of trust formation (usually involving ‘objective’ statistics enshrined in balance sheets and financial reports), and old ones (faith in the character of the gentlemen behind a business). Focusing on a case study of a major fraud, this chapter argues that investors tended to rely on the perceived character of the directors. In exposing the unreliability of these traditional processes of trust formation, the scandal prompted the state to attempt to improve access to objective data on companies, and this chapter ends by examining the reasons for the failure of these reforms.

Item Type: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > History
ID Code: 51367
Deposited By: ep_importer_pure
Deposited On: 22 Nov 2011 16:38
Refereed?: No
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2014 00:45
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/51367

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