This paper takes as its starting point the relevance of a historical perspective to the study of corporate governance. Corporate governance is concerned with the institutions that influence how business corporations allocate resources and returns, and with the exercise of accountability to investors and other stakeholders. The historical model adopted is that of personal capitalism which is informed by scholars such as Chandler, and in the British context, Quail. Birmingham Small Arms, a quoted and diversified engineering company, was selected for analysis because although it was relatively large and adopted a holding company format, it retained many of the characteristics of a personal capitalist firm. Our longitudinal study of 1906 to 1933 shows that what emerged at BSA was a dominant group of directors who were eventually impelled to concede change by a sustained shareholder critique and an altered legal and business environment.

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