University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Financial History Seminar > Individual investors in the late nineteenth century: what did they invest in, and why?

Individual investors in the late nineteenth century: what did they invest in, and why?

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In this paper, we explore actual portfolios containing 2,316 individual securities, held by a sample of 508 British investors at death in the period 1870 to 1902. We examine how many securities these investors held, whether they diversified, and how these portfolio characteristics changed over the period. By so doing, we can provide data on actual numbers of securities held in portfolios and begin to analyse the diversification strategies of individual British investors during the period, in a pre-portfolio theory and capital asset pricing model world. We find evidence of an understanding of diversification of risk, correlation and top down investment management well before these were formally articulated in financial theory.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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