Company Law in the 19th Century

An analysis of the extent to which the rise of the dominance of company law in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the inevitable consequence of technological advance.

This paper examines how during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Britain experienced what came to be known as the “second industrial revolution” ? a period of major industrialization with changes to British industry as a whole and further to this, a change in the idea of the “company” or firm. It looks at how hand in hand with this were technological advances, which it has been said spurred on this major change to life in Britain. It explores the technological advance in this period, how much of an effect it had on company law as such and to looks further at other features of this age which could have affected the rise of company law.
“By 1914, company law had overtaken the Joint Stock Company and the law of partnership as the most dominant form of industrial organization in Britain. As mentioned previously, this is often attributed to the increase in technological advances and the changes this made to industrial Britain. There was “a relative decline of agriculture compared with other sectors such as industry” , and new industries were growing steadily throughout the nineteenth century, for example metals, mining and chemical trades. This was largely due to advances made in these fields, and with increased output came a rise in employment, most notably in the new industries of electrical engineering, and the motor trade. “Mechanized mass production was spreading throughout the manufacturing industry” , and “big business” was dominating Britain in one way or another, be it the larger scale production, or the large scale business organization. However, technological advance was not necessarily the main reason for this increase.”