Abstract: Ownership of Railway Stock in France and the United States, 1840-1940: The Mystery of Missing Data and Why That Matters

Jim Cohen


Alfred Neymarck and Olivier Moreau-Néret published data in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century indicating that France was a "financial democracy" because ownership of stock and bonds, including railway securities, was broadly distributed throughout the population. Thus, one important reason that successive French governments loaned money to insolvent private railways may have been to protect the savings of small investors. However, the fact that institutional investors also owned large blocks of rail stock, which allowed them to control railway management, leads me to question the financial democracy argument. Because Neymarck and Moreau-Néret do not reference their primary sources, I have been unable to re-analyze their data. I hypothesize that they chose this course because their data came from government sources widely accepted as valid in public and scholarly discourse—a proposition I will test by searching government archives.

BEH On-Line Paper