Argentina, Barings, and the Panic of 1890

           In search of higher returns elsewhere, European investors in the 19th century increasingly coveted the bonds of South American borrowers. In Argentina, foreign money helped finance national improvements and government deficits. Arranging much of this financing was one of the oldest London merchant banks, Barings Brothers & Co. When the boom years ended and the

Hamilton and the Panic of 1792

           In the early 1790s, the United States was still in the midst of its first presidential administration and still establishing new governing institutions. This process was interrupted briefly by a financial panic in 1792. In a country then just a few years old, expectations for a strong response might not have been high. However, the

The Great Kuwaiti Crash

           In 1982, the third largest stock market in the world crashed, losing 60% of its value over three months. This occurred not in America or Japan, but in Kuwait. The tiny Persian Gulf state of a million and a half people had become enriched by oil money which flooded into its financial sector from investors

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,

Commercial Paper Crisis of 1763

           For as long as money can be borrowed short-term at a rate cheaper than it can be borrowed for longer, banks and borrowers will be incentivized to keep the duration of their liabilities short. While this is economically favorable in the short-run, it carries meaningful risks. Such a maturity mismatch has been the source of

England’s 15th Century Depression

           In the mid-15th century, the economy of late-medieval England took a turn for the worse. The result was decades of economic stagnation and a reversal of a paradigm that dated to the end of the Great Plague of the 1340s. To speak of economic recessions or depressions in a pre-modern period, especially those whose root

Tulip Mania

           In the 17th century, one of the first recorded speculative bubbles held Holland firmly in its grip and it involved one of the most unlikely of assets, not stocks or bonds or real estate, but tulip bulbs. Even more than the time and place, it is the asset involved that makes the tale of ‘tulip

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

Old Lombard Street’s Greatest Panic

           In the spring of 1866, London’s money markets were shaken by the collapse of a single large and previously illustrious firm. The Panic of 1866 was one of the most severe in Victorian finance. However, it was also handled in a surprisingly effective manner by the Bank of England, then merely a private bank, albeit

The Knickerbocker Trust Company

           Financial crises have been around longer than many realize. Imagine reading that the stock market plunges by 50%, recession follows, investment firms and banks fail across the country, and the government seeks to get to the bottom of what happened. Could that be describing the Great Depression or the most recent recession? In either case,

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