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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

03 MAY 2011

Insolvency Statistics - past and present

James Nicholls, an attorney of the Court of Insolvent Debtors wrote a tract on the present practice of the court of insolvent debtors in 1822. The book was entitled: Nicholls, J. The Present Practice of the Court of Insolvent Debtors. Henry Butterworth, London. 1822. This book makes for remarkable reading especially in relation to the activities of the Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small Debts, throughout England and Wales, of which James Nicholls was solicitor. The book is notable for the excellent breakdown of statistics compiled by Edward Smith, the patentee for the execution of the laws and statutes concerning bankrupts. These statistics show, "the number of commissions of bankruptcy each year, from the year 1790 to the 16th May, 1822, both inclusive, and distinguishing the number of commissions against bankers." With the creation of the insolvent laws (i.e. those laws designed to relieve the insolvent debtor as opposed to the bankruptcy laws which were only available to traders) many people thought that the incidence of bankruptcy commissions were reduced. However, this is not borne out by Edward Smith's figures. Here is the table:

 
YearsNumber of CommissionsNumber of Commissions against Bankers
1790 747 None
1791 769 1
1792 934 1
1793 1956 26
1794 1041 2
1795 879 7
1796 954 6
1797 1115 3
1798 911 3
1799 717 6
1800 951 8
1801 1199 3
1802 1090 8
1803 1214 8
1804 1117 6
1805 1129 9
1806 1268 5
1807 1362 1
1808 1433 5
1809 1382 7
1810 2314 26
1811 2500 4
1812 2228 17
1813 1953 8
1814 1612 29
1815 2284 26
1816 2731 37
1817 1927 5
1818 1245 6
1819 2056 14
1820 1695 4
1821 1587 11

It has been observed, at least in the popular press, that bankruptcy statistics have only been recorded since 1960. The Insolvency Service do only keep records from that date on their website. But there are many other sources from which an historical picture of redress to the insolvency laws can be examined from a statistical perspective. A small number are given below in chronological order:

1800 - Neild, J. Account of Persons confined for Debt in England and Wales. London, 1800.
1802 - Neild, J. An Account of the Society for the Relief and Discharge of Persons Imprioned for Small Debts. Nichols, London, 1802.
1802 - Neild, J. Account of the Rose, Progress and Present State of the Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons imprisoned for small debts throughout England and Wales. London, 1802.
1804 – King, J. Remarks on Imprisonment for Debt, on the Recent Progress of the Law and Increase in Lawyers. 2nd Edition. 1804.
1808 – Neild, J. An Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Society for the Discharge and Relief of persons imprisoned for small debts throughout England and Wales. London. 1808.
1811 - Report from the select Committee appointed to take into consideration the present state of commercial Credit, vol. II, 1810-1811.
1823 – Parliamentary Report on the Recovery of small debts, Jl. HC., col.4, 1823.
1842 - A Faithful Guide through the Insolvent and Bankrupt Courts according to the last Two Acts of Parliament of 1842. By a Solicitor of Twenty Years experience. London. 1842.
1848 – Return of the Bankrupts and Insolvent Debtors in each Year between 1801 and 1819, and 1820 and 1846. (1847-48) 51, no.120 (PP).
1850 – Bankruptcy Analysis. British Almanac of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. London: Charles Knight, 1831-1850.
1852 - The Pounds, Shillings, and Pence of Bankruptcy. By a Working member of the Court. London 1852.
1854 – Report of Her Majesty’s Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into Fees, Funds, and Establishments of the Court of Bankruptcy, and the Operation of the Bankrupt Law Consolidation Act, 1849. (1854) 23, no.1770.
1854 – Bankruptcy Administration. The Banker’s Magazine 14 (October 1854): 541 – 45.
1858 – Returns from the Accountant in Bankruptcy. (1857-1858) 47, no.189. (PP).
1859 – A Return of the Number of Applications for Bankrupts Certificates Heard Before Each Commissioner during each of the last Five Years. (1859) 22, no.52.
1859 – Court of Bankruptcy Proceedings of the London and District Court, in the year 1858. (1859) 26, p.545. (PP).
1862 – Proceedings of the Court of Bankruptcy, 1861. (1862) 56, p.685.
1864 – General Returns by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy, 1862 and 1863. (1864) 48, p.303.
1865 – General Return for the Year 1864 of All Matters Judicial and Financial within the Bankruptcy Act 1861. (1865) 65, p1.
1867 – General Return for the Year 1866 by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy. (1867) 57, p.33.
1868 – General Return for the Year 1867 by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy. (1867-68) 57, p.1.
1869 – General Return for the Year 1868 by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy. (1868-1869) 51, p.89. .
1870 – General Return for the Year 1869 by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy. (1870) 57, p.5.
1871 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1870. (1871) 58, no.210.
1872 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1871. (1872) 50, no.237.
1873 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1872. (1873) 54, no.251.
1874 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1873. (1874) 54, no.68.
1875 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1874. (1875) 61, no. 272
1876 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1875. (1876) 61, no.210.
1877 – General Report by the Comptroller in Bankruptcy for the Year 1876. (1877) 69, no.314.
1877 – The Report of the Comptroller in Bankruptcy. The Banker’s Magazine 37 (July 1877): 537-544.
1878 – Statistics of Failures in the United Kingdom. The Banker’s Magazine 38 (February 1878): 106-108.

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