After the Great Fire of London

           In 1666, a fire burned down much of London, leaving tens of thousands homeless and destroying numerous public buildings. The property lost was worth millions of pounds. So, rebuilding was more than a feat in engineering. A financial challenge also needed to be overcome. In the end, the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire

Creating the Consols

           For over a century, perhaps the most significant security in the world was the British consol. One consol was just like any other; for most of their history, they paid 3% interest perpetually. Yet, fifty years before their creation, government borrowing in Britain made use of a broad array of different instruments. Nevertheless, history ultimately

Financing the Second French Indemnity

           After France’s defeat in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the country was billed five billion francs for peace. This ‘indemnity’ was intended to cripple the country, but it failed. The French government was able to pay the demanded reparations faster than expected by refinancing the indemnity with perpetual bonds, or rentes. It succeeded in conducting the

Financing the First French Indemnity

           After being defeated at Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to give up control of France. The treaty that finally ended the long Napoleonic Wars nonetheless imposed on the defeated country responsibility for paying a large indemnity, the first of two in 19th century France. The public finances were in shambles; so, meeting such payments would

Republic of Texas Bonds

           Governments are usually able to borrow on terms at least as favorable as any available to individuals or companies. So long as they are not too indebted, their ability to tax subjects is something creditors are quite often happy to lend against. In the 19th century, numerous countries began to issue longer-term debts in bond

The People’s Budget

           Advocates of free trade have often promised it would bring more productive industry, the curtailment of monopolies, and more choice for consumers. However, free trade required a rethink of fiscal systems since, at least prior to the 20th century, most national governments relied on customs duties for a substantial part of their revenues. Those who

The Ottoman Debt Crisis

           When sovereign debt markets globally became more integrated in the 19th century, weaker debtors found a new way to finance deficits, borrowing from abroad. No longer would expedients to budget shortfalls, prudent or not, need to be found domestically. The advances of the 19th century enabled new borrowers to issue bonds to yield-hungry investors in

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

Britain’s Sinking Fund

           In the late-18th century, Britain was awash in debt. So large was this debt that even relatively cheap financing couldn’t save the British government from interest costs that ate up half of state revenues. To pay down this debt, the country implemented a sinking fund, a fund established to repurchase bonds that had previously been

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