The battle of the piggy banks with the money doses

June 14, 2011

I didn’t know this piece by Pieter Bruegel. That’s the only interesting thing I got from Niall Ferguson’s  BBC series the Ascent of Money. The show’s dismal and often out right inaccurate. Worse, instead of the promise financial history of the world, we get a third rate finance class with, admittedly, historical examples. It’s completely different, in particular there is an idea of evolution through try and error that is absolutely absent from the series. I’d like to see what a real historian like Oscar Gelderblom would have done with it.

Finance and gambling in early modern Europe or why Arrow-Debreu can be fun

December 25, 2010

Hedge fund managers playing poker and investment gurus using their skills in casinos are part of the contemporary mythology surrounding the world of finance. This makes it surprising that when Merton listed the functions performed by financial markets and institutions he did not include a very important one: entertainment. Had he considered early modern Europe, the striking resemblance between a casino and a stock exchange would certainly not have eluded him.

Read the rest of this entry »

Opper S. (1993): the incredible story of the fleeing Dutchmen

December 13, 2010

Oppers, Stefan E. (1993) The Interest Rate Effect of Dutch Money in Eighteen-Century Britain. The Journal of Economic History, 53/1: 25-43.

Dutch citizens invested heavily in Britain over the 18th century. Even though the English themselves regarded this phenomenon as a necessary evil, it greatly help the Crown to levy the necessary capital for its expenses over the century (p.28). In the 1740s Dutch financiers in London had become critical for the funding of the government’s deficit. To a large extent it can even be said that the Seven Years War was won thanks to foreign money.

Read the rest of this entry »

The socialist within

May 22, 2010

It’s Friday night in this side of the Western hemisphere, so, what the heck. I think you might find it funny. Here’s a bit of U. S. public debt history.

Does the average tea-party fan know better?

Found via The Big Picture.

Murphy A. (2009) The smartest boys in the alley, early derivatives on the London stock market

October 24, 2009

Murphy, Anne L. (2009) Trading options before Black-Scholes: a study of the market in late seventeenth-century London. Economic History Review, 62/1: 8-30.

Picture 10

The ledger of the financial broker Charles Blunt contains the details of some 1,500 transactions realized between 1692 and 1695, about a third of which regard the then novel trade in equity options (p.9). The technique had arisen in the 1620s in the commodity market and was proving very useful in the decade following the Glorious Revolution, when some 100 joint-stock companies were floated in London  (p.10). During the boom of the early 1690s, it is likely that “several thousand derivatives were transacted each year”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sessions of the Second Latin American Economic History Congress

September 21, 2009

Wordle: CLADHE-II: List of sessions

Here is the list of preapproved sessions  of the Second Latin American Economic History Congress (CLADHE-II), to be held in Mexico City on February 3-5, 2010. To submit a paper to any of the sessions, you have to go here.

Wordle: CLADHE-II: Lista de simposios

Frehen R., Goetzmann W. and Rouwenhorst G. (2009) Why invest in the bubbles?

August 31, 2009

Frehen, Rik, William Goetzmann and Geert Rouwenhorst (2009) “New Evidence on the First Financial Bubbles”, Yale international Center for Finance, Working Paper 04, 24p.

Picture 8Picture 10Picture 9

This article is available online.

Why did investors decide to bet on the various companies that would form the three 1720 bubbles in France, England and the Netherlands? (p.1). How did these bubbles affect companies which unlike the Compagnie des Indes and the South Sea Company were neither involved in the Atlantic trade nor in public finance?

Read the rest of this entry »

Flandreau M. et al. (2009) The question was not how to develop finance

August 30, 2009

Flandreau, Marc, Christophe Galimard, Clemens Jobst and Pilar Nogués-Marco (2009) “The bell-jar: commercial interest rates betwee two revolutions” in The Origin and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, eds. Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 161-208.

Picture 4Picture 3Picture 2

An earlier version of this paper is available here.

For institutionalist economists as well as for contemporary commentators, the wealth of nations in 18th century Europe was rooted in their political system which influenced the level of interest rates and thus trade (p.165). The confidence investors had in the government’s credit was thus seen as critical (tellingly John Law’s primary aim was to bring interest rates down; p.166). Read the rest of this entry »

Velde F. (2009) Eighteenth-century France’s one-man-bubble

August 21, 2009

Velde, François R. (2009) “Was John Law’s System a bubble? The Mississipi Bubble revisited” in The Origin and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, eds. Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 99-120.

Picture 29Picture 28Picture 30

A slightly different version of this paper is available online.

The shares of the Compagnie des Indes created by John Law to manage the colonization of Louisiana, public finances and monopolies went from 250 Livres in July 1718 when the initial offering closed to just under 10,000 L days before Christmas 1719 and finally to 50 L in March 1721 (p.108). Can this jump followed by an even more impressive collapse in under 3 years be described as a bubble? (p.109) Read the rest of this entry »

Quinn S. and Roberds W. (2006) When financial innovation’s good for the economy

August 18, 2009

Quinn, Stephen and Willam Roberds (2006) “An Economic Explanation of the Early Bank of Amsterdam, Debasement, Bills of Exchange and the Emergence of the First Central Bank”, Federal Bank of Atlanta. Working Papers Series, 13: 50p.*

Picture 25Picture 26Picture 4

This paper is available online.


The United Provinces suffered from what Adam Smith termed the “small state” problem: it was awash in foreign coin and had little control over their quality, thus suffered from their constant debasement (p.1). Debtors always have an incentive to pay their due with debased coins. But this practice is only viable if the seigniorage he pays to the mint is lower than the amount of silver he saves in the operation. De facto, there is collusion between the mint and the debtor against the creditor (p.4). Read the rest of this entry »

Quinn S. (2001) Public debt to private finance: “Drop dead”

August 12, 2009

Quinn, Stephen (2001) “The Glorious Revolution’s Effect on English Private Finance: A Microhistory 1680-1705”, The Journal of Economic History, 61/3: 593-615.

Picture 5Picture 4Picture 6

Disclaimer: this summary is written by the contributors of the blog and not by the author of the article. Any mistake is Manuel’s fault (and he shall be punished).


According to North and Weingast’s famous thesis, the investiture of William III of England in 1688, the “Glorious Revolution”, triggered a quick modernization of the British financial system – prompting in turn a fall of the interest rates. But the arrival of the new king also led the realm into a new war against France which lasted nine years and increased public debt from £1 million to £19 million (⅓ of the national income; p.593). Read the rest of this entry »

Carlos A., Key J. and Dupree J. (1998) Early finance’s learning curve

August 10, 2009

Carlos, Ann M., Jennifer Key and Jill L. Dupree (1998) “Learning and the Creation of Stock-Market Institutions: Evidence from the Royal African and Hudson’s Bay Companies, 1670-1700”, The Journal of Economic History, 58/2: 318-344.

Picture 5Picture 4Picture 6

Disclaimer: this summary is written by the blog and not by the authors of the article. Any mistake is Manuel’s fault.


“England’s emergence as an international trading nation in the seventeenth century can be linked to the growth of trading arrangements that allowed for a longer life of capital either […] as a joint-stock trading company” (p.318).

According to North and Weingast’s famous thesis this emergence was made possible by the reforms brought by the 1688 Glorious Revolution. However the authors underline the fact that markets don’t grow instantaneously and it takes some times for the actors to learn how to use the market (p.319). Read the rest of this entry »