Watchdogs or apologists? Financial journalism and company fraud in early Victorian Britain


  • The author would like to thank Marianne Blaauboer, Mark Freeman, John Gardiner, Ryan Garritty, Robin Pearson and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on this article.


The market economy and the market for information developed in tandem in the nineteenth century but their relationship is imperfectly understood. This article explores the characteristics and role of early financial journalism through a case study of a major insurance company scandal in the eighteen-forties. Press reports both before and after the company's collapse show that newspapers played a more active role in exposing and reporting fraud than has been argued. The case had important ramifications both for company law and for the future development of financial journalism, with willingness to expose fraud becoming central to financial journalists’ claims to legitimacy.