Abstract: Empire and Risk: Edwardian Financiers, Australia, and Canada, c.1899-1914

Andrew Richard Dilley


Although British investors are viewed as showing no marked "imperial piety," investments in the dominions (the British Empire's self-governing colonies) occupied an exceptional place in the capital market, enjoying low interest rates. I trace Edwardian London financiers and investors' expectations concerning the effects of imperial connections on Canadian and Australian investment risk. Reconstructing the assumptions linking investment and empire clarifies dominion "exceptionalism." The Empire reassured investors in two ways. First, institutional factors (legal integration through the Privy Council's Judicial Committee and British defensive guarantees) reassured some investors, although these operations depended on colonial consent. Second, the Empire promoted information flows, social networking, and shared cultural assumptions that made the dominions safer havens for British capital. Colonial borrowers played on these factors in dealing with the capital market. Thus, membership in the Empire did not replace the use of more familiar economic and political tools in calculating risks, but it did inform judgment of those risks.

BEH On-Line Paper