European Coal and Steel Community

            Whatever its evolution beyond a mere free trade zone, the European Union is nonetheless the product of decades of trade liberalization, today uniting 500 million people in a common market. The trade liberalization seen in 19th century Europe, though it sharply reduced barriers to trade, did not go nearly as far. While the EU is

Cobden-Chevalier Treaty

           As the Industrial Revolution spread throughout Europe and beyond in the 19th century, so did new approaches to economic thinking. Protectionism was slowly but steadily going out of vogue, and free trade, or at least liberalized trade, was making headway. In Britain, the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s was a major turning

Corn Laws and Free Trade

            Free trade is often associated with late-20th century globalization. The creation of large continental trade associations like NAFTA, Mercosur, and the EU lead many to consider trade liberalization to be a recent phenomenon. The truth is that free trade, and the economic rationale behind it, had its birth in the 19th century with the decline

Orphaned Soviet Bonds

            The ability of financial markets in a free-market system to raise capital is virtually unrivaled. So much so that even communist governments have turned to them for loans. The Soviet Union was no stranger to the sovereign debt markets and the Soviet state raised money by selling bonds in Western financial capitals during the last

The Medici Bank and Letters of Credit

           The 17th and 18th centuries saw financial innovations whose creations have direct heirs today, from the modern deposit bank to the joint-stock company. However, it would be incorrect to imply that these institutions were the first of their kind. When it comes to banking for example, older Renaissance-era institutions made substantial breakthroughs and while that

The 370-Year-Old Infrastructure Bond

           There aren’t very many financial instruments, especially bonds, that distributed income to investors for over a century. The relatively few that exist are usually perpetual bonds, those without any maturity date at all. Today, they are a relatively small category of bonds available to investors. However, there was a time when perpetual bonds were the

The First Sovereign Bonds

           The borrowing needs of governments usually exceed what any one creditor is able to lend. For centuries, governments have worked around this by selling bonds with standardized terms to investors, millions of them. However common this practice is today, it was absent in most ancient and medieval civilizations. It was not until the Late Middle

London’s Goldsmith-Bankers

           Banks are rather curious institutions. While we may not recognize it today, the idea that your money is safer in the hands of a stranger is a tough sell. If a random person came up to you on the street and offered a quarter percent more interest for your savings, claiming his vault was more

Exchange Alley

           Long before New York became a financial capital of North America, let alone the world, London already had the institutions befitting a city of finance and commerce. The Royal Exchange had been founded by merchant and advisor to the monarch, Sir Thomas Gresham in 1571. Lloyd’s of London would be founded in a coffeehouse a