Abstract: The Lake Copais Company: Risky Foreign Investment in Greek Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century

Korinna Schonharl


Investment decisions in the nineteenth century are not always easy to understand: In 1887, the English engineer and financer John Cockburn Francis Lee founded the Lake Copais Company with a capital of £1Mio. The aim of this company was the drainage and cultivation of the Lake Copais Sea in Boeotia, Greece. To understand this investment decision, the project must be considered within the development of agriculture in the 1880s, especially concerning drainage projects and their financial output. On the other hand, Lee himself and his investment behavior—for example for railway construction in Spain—must be considered, as well as his attempts to divide the risk and ensure himself against unforeseeable events in the Copais business. The questions remain of how Lee got the idea to invest in Greece and what made him interested in this country. Where there any personal networks or ties, ideologies, or special interests? Focusing on the Lake Copais Company's solicitor Charles Cheston, author of a book on Greek society and economy in 1887, throws some light on the background of this risky business decision.