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The Extent To Which The Rise To Dominance Of Company Law In The Nineteenth And Early Twentieth Centuries Was The Inevitable Consequence Of Technologi

3414 words - 14 pages

The Extent to which the Rise to Dominance of Company Law in the
Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries was the Inevitable Consequence of Technological Advance

During this period of history, Britain experienced what came to be
known as the ‘second industrial revolution’ – a period of major
industrialization with changes to British industry as a whole, and
further to this, a change in the idea of the ‘company’ or firm. Hand
in hand with this were technological advances, which it has been said
spurred on this major change to life in Britain. Industry was
expanding not least because of the growing importance of other
industries such as the motor trade, metals and electrical engineering,
but whilst this was a major cause of the growth in industry, was it in
fact the reason for the triumph of company law in the early twentieth
century? In this essay I intend to explore technological advance in
this period, how much of an effect it had on company law as such, and
to look further at other features of this age which could have
affected the rise of company law.

By 1914, company law had overtaken the Joint Stock Company and the law
of partnership as the most dominant form of industrial organization in
Britain. As mentioned previously, this is often attributed to the
increase in technological advances and the changes this made to
industrial Britain. There was ‘a relative decline of agriculture
compared with other sectors such as industry’[1], and new industries
were growing steadily throughout the nineteenth century, for example
metals, mining and chemical trades. This was largely due to advances
made in these fields, and with increased output came a rise in
employment, most notably in the new industries of electrical
engineering, and the motor trade. ‘Mechanized mass production was
spreading throughout the manufacturing industry’ [2], and ‘big
business’ was dominating Britain in one way or another, be it the
larger scale production, or the large scale business organization.
However, technological advance was not necessarily the main reason for
this increase. The First Census of Production in 1907 showed the
strength of old industries such as textiles, coal and iron and their
supremacy in the areas of employment, production and exports. In
fact, Britain tended to lag in the export trade in the newer
industries, the ones making advances, whereas it was the cotton
industry, which exported 84% of its output[3] that really held control
in overseas trading.

Despite the older industries dominating over the newer advances, the
‘mass production’ which was allowed through technological development
meant changes to industrial Britain – and not on its production or
output. Many structural changes started to take place within the
organization of industries. This advancing technology...

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