ABSTRACT

Yet it is one (among many) of the consequences of Paish's estimates that priorities in the destination and character of Britain's overseas investment during its Golden Age, 1904-12, have been misunderstood . Paish, when he made .the claims quoted at the head of this article, was referring to the aggregate of British investment overseas right back into the nineteenth century . His prose is misleading , and he sometimes got it wrong himself. But his original intention was to produce an aggregate ­ what Britain had invested abroad since overseas investment began . He did not mean to suggest net figures for securities held at · the time he delivered his papers , 1909 , 1 9 1 1 and 1914 . 3

Fashions change , securities move freely between investors , some investments are repatriated , others are sold , bought and re-sold , loans are repaid. Although it must have been true , for the half-century before 1914 , that in aggregate the larger part of British investment found a home in the United States , India, and in the 'white' Dominions , it was no longer the case that new investment during the Golden Age followed the same path . It was also true , in aggregate and over Paish's 50-60 years ( 18651701914) that the share of government bonds and railway securities in total investment was overwhelmingly large , but the distribution was no longer so obvious for the decade before the First World War. John Dunning followed Herbert Feis , who in turn followed (and misunderstood) Paish , when he claimed that , in 1913 , 40 per cent of Britain's investment port-

folio overseas was in railways , and 30 per cent in government and muni­ cipal securities. 4 This might have been correct for the accumulated figures of over half a century , but national, federal , state and municipal securities were always the first to return to the domestic investor, and it is unlikely that as much as 30 per cent of the British portfolio remained in these categories as late as the end of 1913 . 5 By 1914 perhaps half of Britain's holdings of US railway securities had returned to the United States or were sold to other, non-British investors , and almost as much of the British railway system in India had been bought up by domestic investors , both native and foreign .