The Evidence for ‘Democratization’ of Share Ownership in Great Britain in the Early Twentieth Century

Josephine Maltby, Janette Rutterford, David R. Green, Steven Ainscough and Carien van Mourik

in Men, Women, and Money

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199593767
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728815 | DOI:
The Evidence for ‘Democratization’ of Share Ownership in Great Britain in the Early Twentieth Century

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Although there is general consensus that share ownership increased in Britain from the late nineteenth century onwards, less attention has been paid to the extent to which this increase reflected a change in the social class of shareholders. In the early twentieth century, there was a frequent claim that increased ownership resulted from the democratization of share purchase. The chapter investigates the evidence for this, examining the growth in savings banks’ deposits, the wide take-up of War Savings during the First World War, and the promotion of employee share ownership. These influences, and contemporary comments, provide a context for the study of the social class of shareholders in a number of UK companies. The chapter concludes that democratization did not take place, and that share ownership rather reflected the growth in popularity of more diversified investment portfolios during the period under review.

Keywords: democratization; share ownership; savings; employee share ownership; war loan; HISCO; Britain; nineteenth century; twentieth century

Chapter.  9986 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Business History

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