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Avoiding Negligence and Profusion: The Failure of the Joint-Stock Form in the Anglo-Indian Tea Trade, 1840–1870


In the nineteenth century, firms operating in the Anglo-Indian tea trade were organized using a variety of ownership forms, including partnership, joint-stock, and a combination of the two, known as the managing agency. Faced with both an increasing need for fixed capital and high agency costs caused by the distance between owners and managers, the firms adapted and increasingly adopted the hybrid managing agency model to overcome these problems. Using new data from Calcutta and Bengal Commercial Registers and detailed case studies of the Assam Company and Gillanders, Arbuthnot and Co., this article demonstrates that British entrepreneurs did not see the choice of ownership as a dichotomy or firm boundaries as fixed, but instead drew innovatively on the strengths of different forms of ownership to compete and grow successfully.

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Enterprise & Society
  • ISSN: 1467-2227
  • EISSN: 1467-2235
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