Alberta’s ‘Prosperity Certificates’

           After the start of the First World War, numerous countries’ monetary authorities suspended their gold standards. Many reverted back to gold after the war only to abandon it once more during the Great Depression. During this era, the question of what money was, and what it should or shouldn’t be, were debated more than ever

Bismarck’s Banker

           In the history of Germany, few men are as significant as Otto von Bismarck, who unified the country in the mid-19th century. It is perhaps not because of Bismarck that Germany unified, but Bismarck more than anyone else elected the manner in which it would be done. Through the entire saga, he had a financier

South Africa’s Industrial Gold Rush

           The extraction of commodities can be the fuel for financial booms and busts. Whether it be cotton in 19th century Egypt or oil in 20th century Venezuela, commodities have enriched people, firms, and nations, often temporarily. Perhaps some of the most historically memorable commodity booms were the gold rushes of the 19th century, which snapped

The South Sea Bubble in Writing

           Perhaps one of history’s best-known financial bubbles was also among the first. The South Sea Bubble, which inflated and popped in 1720, was the product of the “Financial Revolution” which began in Britain in the late 17th century. The crash is at least familiar to many interested in the history of financial crises. For this,

America’s Foreign-Currency Bonds

           Developing countries and smaller developed country governments often issue bonds in other currencies than their own. This allows investors to separate out the credit risk from the currency, inflation, and interest-rate risk of a particular country. An investor in developing country ‘hard-currency’ bonds, for example, can buy such bonds to take a view of the

India’s Indigo Crash

           Exporting commodities can be a precarious source of riches. From the 20th century to today, oil has been a blessing and a curse to nations that rely on it to sustain their standards of living. In the 17th and 18th centuries, colonialism added an extra dimension to the commodities curse, shaping raw materials booms and

Confessions of a Stockjobber

           Published almost a hundred years ago now, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre is more than an investment book. It is something of a novel, set in fin de siècle New York and revolving around a certain stock trader named Larry Livingston. This Larry Livingston did not exist, at least by that name,

Silvio Gesell and the Wörgl Experiment

        In the last decade of the 19th century, a hitherto unheard-of German immigrant in Argentina published a book proposing a radical new monetary system. The author, Silvio Gesell, had no training in economics and so his ideas could very easily have been dismissed, but they were not. They caught the attention of economists, governments, and

New York’s Near Bankruptcy

          Almost fifty years ago, America’s largest city was on the brink of bankruptcy, about to default on a massive debt repayment with only one-tenth of the cash on hand required to make good on it. The day of reckoning had come after years of high spending relative to depressed revenues. New York City was billions

Old Genoa’s Universal Bank

           What banking and public finance have in common might not be obvious. However, in their histories, the two are joined at the hip. Indeed, some of the oldest banks have their origins in public finance. Counterintuitively, this includes central banks with roots as private organizations. The Bank of England, for example, was founded as little

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