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Reference: Lester, V. Markham., (1991). Insolvency and reform of English bankruptcy law, 1831-1914. DPhil. University of Oxford.Citable link to this page:


Insolvency and reform of English bankruptcy law, 1831-1914

Abstract: This thesis is a history of the reform of English bankruptcy law 1831-1914 and a statistical analysis of the insolvency the reforms sought to limit. The first two chaptersdescribe the historiography of government growth innineteenth-century Britain and outline the history of Englishbankruptcy legislation until 1831. Using statistics frombankruptcy reports published by the Board of Trade after 1883and returns issued by other government entities prior to thatdate, chapters three and four define the extent and thecharacteristics of insolvency. These chapters analyze theaggregate level of bankruptcy in particular occupations andgeographic areas; they also examine the effect of tradecycles on bankruptcy levels, both in terms of numbers ofbankruptcies and losses occasioned. The remaining chapterstrace the history of bankruptcy legislation and examine whyParliament embraced the concept of government supervision ofbankrupt estates in 1831, then dismantled the system in the1860s, only to reimpose it once again a short time later. Theroles of three groups in this story -- the business community, the legal profession, and the government -- are examinedin detail using the records of the local chambers of commerce, law societies, and other organizations.The thesis concludes that, while the aggregate level oflosses declined after the Bankruptcy Act of 1883, the lossrates for some occupations did not reflect this decline.Also, trade cycles did not uniformly affect the rate ofbankruptcy for all occupations and geographic areas. Randomfactors rather than trade cycles had the greatest effect onannual bankruptcy rates. The thesis also argues that theextension of government brought about by bankruptcy reformswas largely a pragmatic attempt to manage bankrupt estatesefficiently and had little philosophical basis. Further, theclose resemblances between bankruptcy reforms and otherVictorian extensions of government add to the evidence that,while there may not be a strict pattern to government growth,such growth may be considered as a distinct and identifiableprocess.

Type of Award:DPhil Level of Award:Doctoral Awarding Institution: University of Oxford Notes:This thesis was digitised thanks to the generosity of Dr Leonard Polonsky

Bibliographic Details

Issue Date: 1991Identifiers

Urn: uuid:28c0519a-eef4-44c4-bb8a-90be75e0c7da

Source identifier: 602369741 Item Description

Type: Thesis;

Language: eng Subjects: England Bankruptcy History Tiny URL: td:602369741


Autor: Lester, V. Markham. - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultyFaculty of Modern History - - - - Bibliographic Details Issue Date:



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