Annual EBHS Conference, 39th Annual Economic and Business History Society Conference

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Avoiding Negligence and Profusion: The Failure of the Joint-Stock Form in Anglo-Indian Trade, 1813-1870
Michael Aldous

Last modified: 2014-05-27


In the 19th century, firms operating in the Anglo-India trade were organised using a variety of ownership forms including the partnership, joint-stock and a hybrid form known as the managing agency. Faced with both an increasing need for fixed capital and high principal-agent costs due to the distance between owners and managers, the firms adapted and increasingly adopted the hybrid managing agency model to overcome these problems. Using new data from Calcutta and Bengal Commercial Registers and detailed case studies of the Assam Company and Gillanders, Arbuthnot and Co, this paper demonstrates that British entrepreneurs did not see the choice of ownership as a dichotomy or firm boundaries as fixed, but instead innovatively drew on the strengths of different forms of ownership to successfully compete and grow.