The Structure of the Firm in the Nineteenth Century
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As late as 1919 Marshall — with an unrivalled knowledge of institutional arrangements — could write that until ‘not very long ago the representative firm in most industries and trades was a private partnership … [45: 314]. Indeed, throughout most of the nineteenth century, the fundamental business unit was the individual proprietorship or partnership [33: 111; 8: 10]. This was not simply a consequence of the Bubble Act of 1720, whereby the creation of a joint-stock company with transferable shares and corporate status was possible only with the consent of the State, but because there appears to have been no pressing necessity to depart from the traditional organisational framework [26: 27].
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