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Business history

  • Stamp Office, Somerset House
    Stamp Office, Somerset House, from R. Ackermann: The Microcosm of London. Vol.III, p98
    R. Ackermann: The Microcosm of London. Vol.III, p98

This is a general guide to the resources available to those researching the history of a specific company or industry sector. Enquirers are advised to ring or visit the library to find out more about its stock.

Printed material deposited here by the Stock Exchange includes loan and company prospectuses from 1824 to 1964 and annual reports of quoted companies from 1880 to 1965. Historical files of commercial periodicals and statistical series are also available.

Current commercial information is available at the City Business Library.​

 

Annual reports and prospectuses

Annual reports of companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange are available for the years 1880-1965. We advise to first consult Burdett's later Stock Exchange Official Intelligence, 1882-1933 (merged with the Stock Exchange Yearbook from 1934) to confirm if the company was listed.

We do not hold annual reports from 1965 onwards except for nationalised companies for the period when they were state-owned.

Other sources for company information include:

  • The Stock Exchange Loan and Company Prospectuses, 1824-1964 (duplicate copies for 1824-1901 are available on microfiche).
  • The Times Book of Prospectuses, 1891-1969
  • Extel Book of Prospectuses and New Issues, 1970- September 1984
  • Extel Prospectuses and New Issues Service (microform), October 1984-May/June 1994)
  • Typescript and microfiche company name indexes for the period 1824 to 1988.

Bibliographies and business bibliographies

Business bibliographies

Prominent members of the business community can be traced using sources such as trade and court (residential) directories such as:

  • Who's Who
  • Who Was Who
  • British Biographical Archive
  • The Dictionary of National Biography \and People of Today
  • Directory of Directors
  • The Dictionary of Business Biography,1860-1980
  • Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1860-1960
  • Business men at home and abroad, 1912/13
  • Notable Londoners…,1921/22

Bibliographies

We hold a number of useful bibliographies and guides to tracing business histories. These list firms for which a history has been published or indicate where surviving company archives have been deposited.

The library also holds the International Directory of Company Histories, a multi-volume work published from 1988 which contains historic profiles of international firms.

Bibliographies include:

  • A Bibliography of British Business Histories
  • British Business History, a bibliography
  • International Bibliography of Business History
  • Company Archives
  • Directory of Corporate Archives
  • Guide to tracing the history of a business, (revised ed., 2009)
  • Bibliography of Banking Histories
  • British Banking: a guide to historical records
  • The British Insurance Business
  • Archives of the British Chemical Industry, 1750-1914
  • The Brewing Industry, a guide to historical records
  • Bibliography of the History of British Metal Mining
  • Records of British Business and Industry, 1760-1914
  • Chartered accountants in England & Wales: a guide to historical records
  • The Pharmaceutical Industry: a guide to historical records and the Guinness Book of Business Records.

 

Company archives and history

Company archives

In addition to sources held in Guildhall Library, archives of many businesses with City of London connections are currently held at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). LMA also has comprehensive business guides with an A-Z, trade index, and geographical index for firms operating in countries outside the UK. Prior written permission from the depositor may be required in some instances.

Company history

We advise you check our online catalogue as we buy business histories for City and London firms as well as major UK companies.

If a company was quoted on the London Stock Exchange, the Stock Exchange Yearbook for the relevant year will provide some information and also indicate the category or industry name. Company reports and accounts are filed annually by industry within the Stock Exchange collection. 

Company dissolutions, liquidations and bankruptcies​

Company dissolution sources:

  • Companies dissolved before 1930 and a supplement covering names of firms A-C, Companies dissolved, 1930-1949.
  • Companies House Dissolved Index, 1971-1996 (on microfiche).

Notices of bankruptcies sources:

  • The London Gazette and its relevant indexes.
  • London Gazette - Company Law Official Notifications which lists bankruptcies from April 1996 to December 2005.

Company liquidation sources:

  • Register of Defunct Companies
  • Bankers’ Almanac Register of Bank Name Changes and Liquidations since 1750
  • Stubbs Gazette: England and Wales**
  • Perry’s Gazette (available for the years 1882-84, 1886-1943)**

**These are stored offsite and advance ordering is required when consulting the files.

Company registrations

We have microfilm index of company registrations between 1856 and 1973 covering the UK including the Channel Islands and Eire. While not complete, it gives the official registration number, date and reference to printed registration details. The library holds separate listings for Dublin, Belfast, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

Details of company registrations are published in the following sources:

  • Joint Stock Returns, 1856-1900
  • Investors' Guardian, 1901-1962**
  • Jordan's Daily Register…,1962-1973**
  • Directory of British Companies, 1982-September 1997 (on microfiche)

**These are stored offsite and advance ordering is required when consulting the files.

Directories

We have one of the largest collections of historic trade and telephone directories in the United Kingdom and these include:

  • The Stock Exchange Yearbook,1876 onwards in hard copy; microfilm edition 1875-1945
  • Burdett’s Official Intelligence, 1882-98 
  • Stock Exchange Official Intelligence, 1899-1933 which merged with the Yearbook in 1934.

We also hold London and provincial historic trade directories and current and previous editions of UK phone books including:

  • Dun & Bradstreet's Key British Enterprises, 1963 onwards
  • Who Owns Whom (UK edition), 1958 onwards
  • The Red Book of Commerce, 1906-39
  • London Banks, 1877-1916;
  • Banking Almanac, 1845-1915 (incomplete) and the Bankers' Almanac, 1926 onwards.​

Purchasing power of the pound and Retail Price Index

Purchasing power of the pound:

  • Inflation: the value of the pound, 1750-2005.
  • The Pound in Your Pocket, 1870-1970
  • Round about a Pound a Week (lists pre-WWI prices of most basic domestic items)
  • How much is that worth? (gives the value of the pound back to mediaeval times)
  • What it cost the day before yesterday covers the years 1850-1978. 

Retail Price Index/Cost of living:

  • The Central Statistical Office's Retail Prices,1914-1990 and The Value of a Pound, prices and incomes in Britain,1900-1993
  • Mitchell's British Historical Statistics,1988 and his regional volumes of International Historical Statistics,1750-2000
  • The Cost of Living: regional comparisons and Family Spending(previously the Family Expenditure Survey).
  • The IMF's International Financial Statistics covers the whole world while OECD publications relate to its member countries.

Share Prices

Information on share prices listed on a daily basis: 

  • The Financial Times,1888 to date
  • The Stock Exchange Daily Official List,1899 to date.  

Annual average share prices: 

The Stock Exchange Highest and Lowest Prices and Dividends, 1895 to 1991. 

For monthly and annual security values index numbers: 

  • Stock Exchange Values,1921-1970 
  • Annual Abstract of Statistics

The Financial Times Guide to using the financial pages and A Guide to Financial Times Statistics explains where to find the relevant information. 

Stock Exchange Daily Official List

Library holdings:

  • Stock Exchange Daily Official List, 1845-1852 and July 1889-December 1898. (This publication was originally entitled the London Daily Railway Share List and subsequently, the London Daily Stock and Share List.) 
  • Daily Official List from 1899 to date. Microfiche copies between October 1980 and December 2003, replaced by an electronic edition from 2004. 
  • The Course of the Exchange, 1698-June1908 (lacks some years)
  • The Foreign Stock Market, June 1824-June 1832 changing to the Foreign Stock List until December 1871 when it appears to have ceased publication.​

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