Making Sense of Finance in the Long Eighteenth Century
2020 marks the 300-year anniversary of the 1720 South Sea Bubble, a turning point in the history of finance. Starting in France, England and the Low Countries, the bubbles left their mark on Europe and beyond. They also sparked a wide public debate on the value and dangers of speculation. Far more than a financial incident, the bubbles prompted all kinds of cultural anxiety. The many pamphlets, plays and prints, some of which were collected in The Great Mirror of Folly, attest to this and served not only to ridicule, but also to make sense of finance.
This conference seeks to make sense of the cultural and social understanding and impact of finance in the long eighteenth century. It takes 1720 as a watershed moment, but also welcomes challenges to a historiographical trend that treats the Bubbles as a rupture in the development of early modern finance while overlooking continuities and longer-term trends.
This conference challenges scholars of the long-eighteenth century to step forward and make fresh engagement with financial history and related public debates. We invite scholars from backgrounds such as cultural history, art history, literary studies and the history of knowledge and science to investigate the different ways in which the world of finance was entwined with different systems of knowledge, and how financial practices shaped, and were shaped by, society and culture as a whole. As explained below, this conference will be followed by a one-day conference with policy makers and banking professionals. Therefore we specifically encourage papers that explore broader implications of their findings both for the more traditional financial history and for our understanding of finance today.
Topics include, but are not limited to:
– Cultural responses to finance and speculation in the long 18thcentury.
– The global and colonial dimension of European financialisation.
– Understanding the material culture and physical heritage of finance
– Representations of finance and financiers and their practices.
– Critical analyses or historicization of concepts used in finance, such as bubbles, investment,
speculation and interest.
– How the ‘science’ of finance was embedded in and shaped by other knowledge domains.