Abstract: The Shareholder Voice: British and American Accents, 1890 to 1965

Janette Rutterford


This paper is concerned with the interaction between managers and small shareholders who made up the majority of names on the share ledgers of many companies in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It is concerned with the period 1890 to 1965, with three key periods: before World War I, between the wars, and post-World War II. The paper will first look at how many shareholders there were, where they lived, and who they were, before exploring the interaction through annual general meetings, shareholder associations, and written communications on a number of issues, first for the United Kingdom and then for the United States. I argue that there were significant differences between shareholder activism in the two countries, partly due to the difference in relative numbers and characteristics of the shareholders themselves, partly to legal differences, and partly to corporate culture and to the earlier diffusion of shareholding in the United Kingdom compared to the United States.