Chapter

Localism and Capitalism

R. W. Kostal

in Law and English Railway Capitalism 1825–1875

Published in print October 1997 | ISBN: 9780198265672
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682926 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198265672.003.0007
Localism and Capitalism

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This chapter focuses on the first three decades of a protracted struggle between rural authorities and railway companies over the rightful division of a new form of industrial wealth. The principal argument is that the invasion of rural England by urban railway capitalism in the mid-19th century did not displace the fiscal and political prerogatives of the gentry over their local governments; on the contrary, country elites had both the will and the means to impose extremely heavy taxes on railway operations. The second theme of the chapter is that English courts of law were the pivotal intermediaries and decision-makers in the conflict between urban railway capitalists and rural elites over local taxation. Millions of pounds sterling came to hinge on the legal meaning of a few obscure statutory phrases. The decisive interpretation of these phrases was left exclusively in the hands of judges. English judges, not elected politicians, made the crucial determinations concerning the extent of railway liability to local rates and, indirectly, concerning the general profitability of a key industry. Once again the courts were at the centre of an acrimonious struggle between railway capitalism and vested interests mobilized against it.

Keywords: rural authorities; railway companies; railway capitalism gentry; English courts; local taxation

Chapter.  15304 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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