Million Adventure Lottery

           At the end of the 17th century, England was facing fiscal strain from decades of political and economic disorders just as it found itself engaged in yet another war against its historic foe, France. However, rather than bring about a default on its debts, the fiscal crisis ushered in an era of financial innovation. It

The First Mutual Fund

           Perhaps the most widely practiced approach to investing today is by doing so through a mutual fund of one form or another. This is perfectly sensible; someone without a lot of money to invest would be greatly handicapped if the diversification benefits of mutual funds were unavailable to them. Exactly how much money is invested

The Loan that Built the Bank of England

           Despite the fact that modern central banking did not come about until the 19th century, the history of the Bank of England extends back far further. While its responsibilities have no doubt transformed over its three-century history, the Bank has always served a distinguished role in Britain’s system of public finance. Indeed, the institution has

Thirty Maidens of Geneva

        Securitizations are often regarded as innovations of modern finance, products of the last three decades and not the last three centuries. In fact, pooling financial assets together and selling tradable instruments backed by that pool is not so novel a practice as one might think. Over two centuries ago, bankers were pooling life annuities, contracts

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.

Quaker Origins of British Banking

           The goldsmiths of 17th century London are among those who can be said to have invented modern banking. Though goldsmiths by trade, they played the part of bankers too, taking in deposits and loaning them out at interest to the public. Nonetheless, banks remained rare in Britain before 1750. That was soon to change however,

The 280-Year-Old Pension

           For over a century, life annuities were sold as a means of financing government deficits. In the 18th century, the French state would sell these annuities to fund its wars in Europe and abroad, often at very generous implied interest rates. Though they experimented most with life annuities, in contrast to Britain’s perpetual consolidated annuities

The Sound Toll

           From the end of the Middle Ages to midway through the Industrial Revolution, ships passing through the narrow strait connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea were required to pay a toll to the Kingdom of Denmark. Seems mundane, but for centuries, this toll was perhaps the most controversial in the world, going so

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