Buyer Beware! Re-Evaluating the Upsurge in Sharepushing Scandals in Interwar Britain

Matthew Hollow

During the interwar period Britain experienced a severe spike in cases of sharepushing (i.e. the peddling of worthless shares to vulnerable buyers). This unprecedented upsurge not only caused millions of pounds worth of losses, it also fundamentally undermined public confidence in the British money markets. What I want to do in this paper is to look in more depth at the reasons behind this still unparalleled surge in these sorts of crimes. To do this, I first look at the nature of these crimes and the impact they had on British business and society. Following this, I then look in more depth at the contemporary response to these crimes, focusing in particular upon the ways in which the government and the financial establishment interpreted and reacted to this upsurge of sharepushing scandals. Finally, I then look at some of the different interpretations that other academics have put forward to explain this notable upsurge in these sorts of crimes, before moving on to offer some new insights on the political and organisational dynamics of the sharepushing problem in Britain during the interwar era.

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