Last week, I revealed that I had finished putting the names Britain's 1300 railway directors in 1848 into a database. Eventually, I hope to look at the networks between them, who was the most influential individual and their backgrounds. However, for a bit of fun I though I would see if I could find out the backgrounds of ten in the database. For easy searching I selected directors with unusual names, then began trawling the census returns to see what I could dig up.
I found that four individuals were merchants, the most interesting being James Arbouin, director of the Royston and Hitchen, East Lincolnshire and Great Northern Railways, who dealt in wine. It is not surprising that merchants dominated my sample, as most research shows that early railway directors got involved for the benefit of their own businesses. Thus, those in trade and commerce flocked to the boards of railway companies, given the possibility of new markets opening up.
This was possibly the motivation for joining a railway's board for the two directors whose principal income was from industry. Isaac Badger, who sat on the South Staffordshire Railway's board, was involved in nail, glass and iron manufacturing. Two directors were involved in finance. For example, George Braithwaite Crewdson, a Kendal and Windermere Railway director, was a banker. It was logical for companies to have bankers on the board as this gave the companies a link to easy capital. One director was listed simply as a lawyer and another as just a 'Magistrate.' However, three others, in addition to their principal source of income, were also magistrates.
Actually, I can easily say that the occupations of those chosen for my little bit of fun actually correlate with past studies with larger sample sizes. Ultimately, I hope to do this with all 1300 directors - but that may be just a pipe dream.