The Economic History Review

The diffusion and impact of the corporation in 1910

Volume 68 Issue 3
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Pages: 962-984Authors: James Foreman‐Peck, Leslie Hannah
Published online: December 17, 2014DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12088

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With new and comprehensive data on the international spread of listed and unlisted corporations before the First World War, this article shows the prominence of common law and Scandinavian civil law in the process. This association is interpreted as demonstrating the strong contribution of liberal (laissez-faire) industrial stances. The findings confirm an extended version of Rajan and Zingales’s hypothesis that trade and capital openness are necessary for companies to flourish. Despite the possibilities that companies were created for fraud and exploitation, countries using the corporate form more extensively before 1914 had higher GDP per capita. Through this process, the benefit of imperialism extended to British dominions, but not much, if at all, to British dependent colonies.