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The secondary market for bank shares in nineteenth-century Britain

  • Graeme G. Acheson (a1) and John D. Turner (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2008

Stock transferability and liquidity are viewed as vital characteristics of capital markets. Surprisingly, we know very little about the level of trading activity on, and liquidity of the market for, company stock during the rapid growth of the British capital market in the nineteenth century. This article attempts to shed some light on this important issue by examining the market for bank shares using trading data collected from bank archives. Our evidence suggests that trading activity and liquidity changed imperceptibly over the century. We also find that ownership structure is a major determinant of trading activity and liquidity; whereas shareholder liability regimes don't appear to affect liquidity.


La transférabilité et la liquidité du stock sont considérées comme des caractéristiques vitales du marché des capitaux. Etonnamment, nous connaissons très peu de choses sur le niveau des activités commerciales du marché britannique des capitaux au dix-neuvième siècle. Cette communication essaie d'éclairer cette question importante en examinant le marché des actions bancaires avec des données commerciales recueillies dans les archives bancaires. Notre preuve suggère que l'activité et la liquidité commerciales ont changé de manière imperceptible pendant le siècle. Nous trouvons également que la structure de propriété est un déterminant majeur de l'activité et la liquidité commerciales, tandis que les régimes de responsabilité des actionnaires n'ont pas l'air d'affecter la liquidité.


Übertragbarkeit von Aktien und Liquidität werden als wichtige Grundeigenschaften von Kapitalmärkten angesehen. Überraschenderweise wissen wir nur sehr wenig über den Grad der Handelsaktivitäten mit und die Liquidität des Marktes für Unternehmensaktien während des rapiden Wachstums des britischen Kapitalmarktes im 19. Jahrhundert. Diese Arbeit versucht, etwas Licht auf diese wichtige Frage zu werfen, indem sie den Markt für Bankaktien anhand von Daten, die aus Bankarchiven zusammen getragen wurden, untersucht. Unser Beweismaterial deutet darauf hin, dass sich Handelsaktivität und Liquidität im Laufe des Jahrhunderts nur unmerklich veränderten. Wir erfahren ebenfalls, dass die Eigentumsstruktur ein wichtiger bestimmender Faktor von Handelsaktivität und Liquidität ist; wohingegen Aktionärsverbindlichkeitssysteme die Liquidität scheinbar nicht beeinflussten.


La transferabilidad y la liquidez de las acciones se consideran características esenciales de los mercados de capitales. Sorprendentemente, sabemos muy poco sobre el nivel de actividad comercial y la liquidez del mercado con respecto a las acciones de empresa durante el rápido crecimiento del mercado de capitales británico en el siglo XIX. Este artículo intenta aclarar este tema tan importante mediante el examen del mercado en busca de acciones bancarias utilizando información comercial recopilada en los archivos bancarios. Nuestra evidencia sugiere que la actividad comercial y la liquidez cambiaron imperceptiblemente a lo largo del siglo. También concluimos que la estructura de la propiedad es un factor importante que determina la actividad comercial y la liquidez mientras que los régimenes de responsabilidad del accionista no parecen afectar la liquidez.

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Financial History Review
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