Assets of the dead: wealth, investment, and modernity in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England and Wales

Green, David R.; Owens, Alastair; Swan, Claire and van Lieshout, Carry (2011). Assets of the dead: wealth, investment, and modernity in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century England and Wales. In: Green, David R.; Owens, Alistair; Maltby, Josephine and Rutterford, Janette eds. Men, women, and money: perspectives on gender, wealth, and investment 1850-1930. Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199593767.003.0003

Abstract

At the start of the twentieth century the sociologist, Georg Simmel, suggested that the emergence of the money economy was one of the key transformations to have taken place in modern society. In the context of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain, this chapter explores the composition of wealth that underpinned that view. For a representative group of ordinary wealth holders, it examines the relative importance of different assets owned at death, including land, noting how a growing number of these individuals invested their money in company stocks and shares. Traditional forms of investment, notably government bonds, declined in importance until the First World War. Women as well as men participated in this emerging money economy based on the ownership of financial assets. Growing numbers of individual shareholders were matched by their widening geographical scope, suggesting that the spread of the money economy was a national phenomenon.

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