The economic organisation of the infrastructure industries at the beginning of the 20th century is analysed and government policies evaluated. The focus is railways,
telecommunications, energy, water and sanitation. The paper will outline and attempt to explain the differences in government involvement across, mainly Western, European countries (France, Germany, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Spain). Regulation via the concession system, municipal ownership, state guarantees of bond interest, profit sharing and nationalisation can all be found in parts of these countries and reflect government attitudes over the 1840-1914 period. My aim is to ascertain how far these differences can be explained in terms of economic factors like natural monopoly, transaction costs, capital shortages and government initiatives for industrialisation as opposed to considerations of national defence or unification of regions or ideologies. There may be some lessons here for the transition debate.