The evidence for 'democratization' of share ownership in Great Britain in the early twentieth century

Maltby, Josephine; Rutterford, Janette; Green, David R.; Ainscough, Steven and Van Mourik, Carien (2011). The evidence for 'democratization' of share ownership in Great Britain in the early twentieth century. In: Green, David R.; Owens, Alastair; Maltby, Josephine and Rutterford, Janette eds. Men, Women and Money: Perspectives on Gender, Wealth and Investment 1850-1930. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 184–206.

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Abstract

Contrary to popular belief, therefore, both at the time and since, the evidence for democratization of the shareholding population is relatively thin. The pattern identified by the Economist in 1926 and 1927 seems not to have been the arrival in the share market of a new group of non-traditional investors, but rather a change in behaviour by the classes who had been investors from the mid- to late nineteenth century onwards. Despite the growing numbers of lower middleclass and working-class savers, and the limited attempt to promote various employee schemes, in terms of social class the democratization of share ownership remained limited largely to holders of preference shares. To the extent that this type of share issue grew in importance, so too did the social composition of the shareholding population widen, both in relation to gender as well as occupational group. But outside this limited expansion, for the period under consideration the socioeconomic composition of the nation of shareholders hardly changed at all.

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