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Abstract Using a new weekly blue-chip index, this article investigates the causes of stock price movements on the London market between 1823 and 1870. We find that economic fundamentals explain about 15 per cent of weekly and 34 per cent of monthly variation in share prices. Contemporary press reporting from the London Stock Exchange is used to ascertain what market participants thought was causing the largest movements on the market. The vast majority of large movements were attributed by the press to geopolitical, monetary, railway-sector, and financial-crisis news. Investigating the stock price changes on an independent list of events reaffirms these findings, suggesting that the most important specific events that moved markets were wars involving European powers.