• Banking and Finance in Historical Perspective
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39. Jahrgang | Jahr 2013 | Heft 1


Aufsatz: Seite 59–72

Claire-Amandine Soulié
Financing the Railway in France: The Haute Banque between Collaboration and Competition, 1832-52
This article investigates the role played by trust in regulating two sets of relationships: those between members of the Parisian haute banque on the one hand, and those between the haute banque and the French government on the other. Oscillating between collaboration and competition, the complexity of the relationship between members of the haute banque is best exemplified in the struggle for the railway, which mobilised much of their capital resources in the period 1832-52. Railway construction, which was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, required such sizeable amounts of capital that bankers had to form consortia and share both risks and profits. What was the role that trust played in the process of selecting partners to do business with? How solid were these alliances of convenience? Within the two decades under consideration, the successive French governments deliberated between taking a liberal approach to industry and adopting an interventionist stance. What impact did these changes have on the haute banque? How did these affect its traditional structure and practices? What effect did these have on the milieu's friendships and feuds? Taking the Rothschild franchise as a case study, this article examines James de Rothschild's collaboration and competition with other financiers of the railway system. It argues that trust was a key business resource in the 1830s and 1840s. Its importance, however, faded in the wake of the 1848 Revolution, which brought to power a government intent on modernising French finance and industry, and which introduced a new protagonist on the financial stage: the French public.