Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Railway King

I've been reading The Railway King, the story of George Hudson.  The authors are Tony Arnold and Sean McCartney, both English academics.

George Hudson rose from relatively obscure beginnings - thanks to an inheritance - during the railway mania period in Britain to become an extraordinary entrepreneur with great influence and significant wealth .  He also served several terms as Lord Mayor of York and was a member of parliament for a number of years.

Things  unraveled for him when, in 1849, fraud was uncovered at the York Newcastle and Berwick railway, followed by similar problems at other companies with which he was involved.

The book is "densely" written:  lots of facts and details, all carefully footnoted.  However, it's sometimes a bit of a struggle to read it:  the main themes occasionally get lost in a mass of detail!  Having said this, it gives a good insight into the period, including the influences behind the 1840s British railway boom and the way in which it developed and played out.  It has some observations on corporate governance in that era (particularly interesting, so I may return to this in a future post).  This is all in the context of British politics of the times, mid-way between the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867, with the repeal of the Corn Laws taking place in 1846.

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