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,

The Saudi-Soviet Cold War

           For most countries, the condition of the public finances is driven by factors as diverse as whether the country is at war or peace, its level of employment, and its demographics. However, for some, the prices of natural resources are also of extraordinary importance. This is especially true for petrostates, nations whose economies are overwhelming

The Confederacy’s Cotton Bonds

        The most unique financial arrangements are usually the product of new or desperate circumstances. Why else would one need to deviate from the norms with which market participants are already acquainted? The American Civil War had a lasting effect on the American economy and on American finance. However, one of the most curious financial innovations

The Great Sovereign Bond Bust

           One of the most pronounced bubbles in 19th century finance was a boom in emerging market debt that hazardously swelled during the 1820s. During that decade, sovereign bonds were issued by several newly independent countries following Latin America’s successful revolt against Spanish colonial rule. These newborn borrowers found a strong market for their first bonds

From Tea Panic to Tea Party

      Over two centuries ago, a single speculator set off a chain reaction that triggered a global financial panic. Perhaps surprisingly, that speculator was reacting to history unfolding thousands of miles away and his bet had effects across continents. Linking these events was a single commodity of great importance to 18th century trade, tea. The Crisis

How a Cable Changed Finance

           Whether in finance, or in other professions, the most transformative changes happen gradually. To be sure, many of the triggers of these changes may be discrete events, absent today and here tomorrow. However, for the effects to filter through to the methods of ordinary professionals, and the markets they operate in, some time must usually

From Thaler to Dollar

           When currencies became divorced from the gold and silver that used to determine their value, their utility ceased to be global in extent. From then on, currencies became national phenomena. However, there was a time when the precious metal content of a coin was the sole determinant of its value. In that era, money was

Gregor MacGregor, the Cazique of Poyais

           Two centuries ago, an entrepreneurial Scot used his imagination to mint great profits, only unlike the inventors and industrialists who characterized that era, he was a con man. Gregor MacGregor was an adventurer chasing money and fame and he separated many from their hard-earned money with tales of riches in a faraway place called Poyais.

Atlantic Charter, GATT, and the WTO

       Even before the 20th century, punitive restrictions on trade were quickly being lifted. In Europe, tariff barriers had receded significantly since the mid-1800s. However, the trend towards free trade became global and more permanent with the creation of new international organizations after the Second World War. These institutions were born out of the economic and