The Finance-Growth Nexus in Britain, 1850-1913
This thesis argues that the financial sector played a positive, but limited role in British economic growth from 1850 to 1913. It examines empirically the role played by different types of financial institutions: commercial banks, stock markets and merchant banks. To this end, the thesis uses recently developed time series and dynamic panel methods for the econometric analysis, alongside new data on different parts of the financial system. The results suggest that at a national level, the growth of commercial banks had a limited impact on British economic development over the long run, and stock markets had no impact. However, changes in bank lending influenced economic growth to a significant extent in the short term. Growing conservatism in bank lending practices did not significantly increase credit constraints, as had been previously suspected. Findings from new geographically disaggregated data indicate that the spread of bank offices improved the economic performance of English and Welsh counties. Increased concentration of the banking industry did not hinder economic growth, a result that challenges widespread suggestions in the relevant literature. Moreover, the development of provincial stock exchanges – exchanges outside London - did not influence county-level economic growth, contrary to the view that they were important for the expansion of local industry. Finally, this thesis is the first to assess econometrically the role of merchant banks. It demonstrates that their trade financing activities were beneficial not only for the growth of British international trade, but also for that of the domestic economy.