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Overview

Widely regarded as the center of one of the leading financial markets, the London Stock Exchange plays a critical role in the world market today. During its long and eventful existence, the institution has established a formidable reputation that has flourished in periods of economic stability and weathered the inevitable financial crises. Understanding its role is fundamental to understanding Britain's (and, by extension, the Western world's) economic development.

A key to gaining that understanding is the Minutes of the General Purposes Committee, the main extant primary source relating to the institution, which carefully records the Stock Exchange's activities from its period of greatest growth, 1798-1914. This archival material is available in microform from UMI® with the permission of The International Stock Exchange of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland Limited.

 

From Humble Beginnings--although trading in stocks and shares in Britain can be dated from the mid-sixteenth century, the London Stock Exchange as it is known today emerged in the London coffee houses in the late seventeenth century. In 1773 a central location was established on Threadneedle Street where its activities were supervised by the Committee of Proprietors and the Committee for General Purposes. A new building was erected in Capel Court in 1801 where the Minutes reveal a wide variety of business was conducted from an early stage.

Despite initial upheavals, rules were established for the 550 members of the Exchange and the Committee for General Purposes took the responsibility of representing brokers' interests on a daily basis. Many influential members of the "Old Stock Exchange" such as David Ricardo eventually joined the committee. With the support of Ricardo and others, the committee played a major role in transforming the London Stock Exchange into a prestigious financial institution. Among its many duties, the committee adopted a formal constitution and a rule book, helping to prepare for future expansion.

The London Stock Exchange chronicles this tremendous growth, begun in earnest in the 1820s with the advent of dealings in foreign securities. The 1840s brought the railway boom, followed by a dramatic rise in overseas investments in the years 1850-1870. Larger buildings were constructed in 1853 and 1882 to accommodate the growing activity. Membership of the London Stock Exchange peaked in 1905 with 5,567 brokers.

The collection comprises 95 volumes, all of which are accompanied by contemporary manuscript indexes. The London Stock Exchange provides a unique documentary source that gives researchers an inside look at the daily activities of brokers operating in the exchange. Included is information on specific problems: policy resolutions, fraud cases, disorderly conduct, debt and defaulters, correspondence summaries, and many individual disputes. The collection is an indispensable reference resource for students of colonialism and business, economics, finance, and institutional history.

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