This chapter offers a thorough study of the role of the merchant shipowner in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It defines the joint-stock ownership system in relation to British shipowning, and explores the reasons why the practice was so common. It seeks an answer for why so many merchants from outside of the shipping trade were willing to invest in shipowning. It considers the way financial risk was minimised through the spread of investments; the creation of insurance corporations; the concentration of ownerships; and the growing specialisation and separation of merchant and shipowner, to demonstrate the complexities of the shipowning structure and the environment in which joint-stock ownership formed. The latter half of the chapter uses primary sources to show how part-ownership risked incompetent, unfortunate, and fraudulent management, and the struggle of acquiring legal protection, demonstrating unforeseen faults in the joint-stock system.
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