Abstract: Women Investors in Early Nineteenth-Century English Joint-Stock Banks

Lucy Newton


In 1826 the Banking Act allowed the establishment of joint-stock banks (JSBs) in England and Wales. Institutions taking advantage of this legislation could sell shares to an unrestricted number of partners outside a 65-mile radius of London, although shareholders remained exposed to unlimited liability. The new JSBs did not reinvent banking. Many operated in a very similar way to their private predecessors and many were formed from private banks. But they did have a positive effect that may be described as a renewal or rejuvenation. This process involved the input of shareholders. Investors bought capital and, it may be argued, stability and success into joint stock banking. By the end of the nineteenth century JSBs had proved to be far more successful institutions than their private counterparts. This paper aims to examine a particular group of investors in the new JSBs—women. It analyzes twenty joint stock banks that were formed under the 1826 Act. No one has fully considered the particular input of women investors into the new wave of quasi-corporate banking institutions. This paper provides a fresh area of research.