The Insurance Revolution

              Insurance was one of the first financial products to achieve a level of sophistication recognizable to practitioners today. In the Late Middle Ages, insurance was widely traded in Italian port cities and life annuities were sold across Europe. However, insurance requires a calculation of risk that is rarely straightforward in a world where information

16th Century Seville

            For the most part, the financial history of Europe, and perhaps its commercial history generally, from the 14th century to the 19th century, is a northward travelogue as the paramount financial center moved from the cities of Northern Italy to those of the Low Countries and then to London. However, a caveat to this

Plantation Securities in Suriname

             The Dutch Republic had the most developed financial system in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, a system which deployed huge surpluses earned in trade. However, there were limited investment opportunities in Holland so this system also helped develop Dutch colonies as investors in Holland invested their surpluses abroad. In Suriname, Dutch savings

The Sassoons

           Over the course of the 19th century, the world economy was shaped by an increasing dose of globalization. This was not a new trend. However, for the first time, the world economy was also subject to simultaneous liberalization. International trade had been very restricted up until the early 19th century, the preserve of state-backed official

Loans and Diplomacy in the 19th Century

           As leading commercial cities developed more active and sophisticated financial markets, some cities became centers for global finance. London and Paris became such cities in the 19th century, serving the financial needs not only of their own countries but even those of the continent and the world. Governments of other countries turned to these cities,

Herstatt Bank and Globalization

           In June 1974, Herstatt Bank, a relatively small German bank, was closed by regulators on account of large losses in the foreign exchange market and murky accounting statements. The potential knock-on effects seemed small. The bank was one that few outside the vicinity of Köln would have heard of. However, because of the manner in

A.P. Giannini and Bank of America

           Banks were formed in increasing number nearly everywhere in the 19th century. They also moved on from their mercantile specialization to serve industrial clients as the Industrial Revolution took off. However, even towards the end of the century, the average worker or small business had little access to banking services. Lacking good collateral for loans

Railway Mania

           In the 1840s, Britain was gripped by a mania for railway company shares that saw share prices double before a change in prospects caused the market to give up all of these gains and more. Given the scale of the transformations promised by new railways were so substantial, railway mania was perhaps an inevitable frenzy.

Singapore as a Financial Center

           Today, Singapore ranks as one of the world’s largest financial centers. The city’s financial industry is underpinned by its role as a center for foreign exchange trading and foreign currency lending. It developed this role not so much organically or spontaneously but as a result of planning. Still, this doesn’t tell the whole story. A

The Domesday Book

           Taxation is a complicated procedure and it takes a reasonably sophisticated government to tax a population by whatever means it pleases. Even modern governments, those of middle-income or wealthy countries included, often struggle to collect certain taxes effectively. In the case of an income tax, an income needs to be validated some way, and this

Canton System and Hong Merchants

           It is understandable to presume, when the world first became better connected by trade, that this trade was an unregulated free-for-all. However, though governments then might have been weaker than those of today, they were if anything even more motived then than now to regulate and control trade. This was true in Europe, where governments

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