At a time when European industrial systems are experiencing varying trajectories, the issue of financing has become acute. Such issues were already observed at the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th, in the context of the second, capital-hungry industrial revolution of basic steel and electrotechnical production. During this period (1880–1930), France, the UK and Germany — the pillars of this revolution — saw the development of very large industrial companies spearheading growth, though these were characterised by very significant differences in size, structure and results from one country to another.
This unique comparative analysis, conducted by an expert on bank-industry relations, highlights a factor that has been largely overlooked by current historiography: the highly variable role banks played in the financing of large companies by behaving in a specific fashion with regard to large industry in each of the three countries, and likewise how those companies accepted working with the banks.
A unique and timely perspective on interactions between capital and industry, especially given the current on-going changes in industry.
A doctor of letters and a former student of the École nationale des chartes, Philippe Marguerat is an honorary professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland).