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19th September 2017
Title: Chronicles and Characters of the Stock Exchange
Author: Francis, John
Price: £14.50
Publisher: Hindsight Books
Date Published: 2001
Specifications: Softcover, 167pp., 5.5" x 8", 250g.
ISBN: 0954156706
Condition: As new.
Copies in stock: 626
Category: Finance More books in this category
Book type: Investment History
Hindsight ID: 1086
Chronicles and Characters of the Stock Exchange

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Notes: In this early history of stock trading in London, from its early days in Exchange Alley, Francis traces the rise of the National Debt from its institutionalisation under William III. The association of the Stock Market with the demands arising from War and political intrigues is made evident, as is the service rendered by the City - despite the notoriety of its money making powers, episodic fallout from crashes and panics, and the ever present temptation to corruption.

That fraud is always with us is seen in early examples such as the unfortunately named Charitable Corporation when such scams could produce misery unmatched by modern day crimes. More widespread then was the corruption arising from the entanglement of government,debt and the exchange mediated through an unhealthy association of Politicians, Ministers, Officials, Schemers, Brokers, and Jobbers:

"From the Alley to the House is like a path of ants", said Walpole.

Ingenious schemes to raise money (and lower morals) are described, including Tontines, Lotteries and issuing insurance (gambling) on the lives of the Rich and (ailing!) Famous. The lotteries were a phenomenon that bordered on mania through the eighteenth century. Even barbers and sausage-makers concocted lotteries for their clients - it served as advertising - encouraging the spirit of gambling but depressing the ability to value goods and ultimately taking away the means to pay for them. At its worst, illegal lottery houses in London alone exceeded 400.

The great bubbles are recorded from Tulips to the almight collapse in foreign stocks in 1835 and along with other well-known speculative fevers (such as the South Sea Bubble) are those less famous - such as:

"In 1807 and 1808, a general and feverish love of speculation was abroad. Joint-stock companies were the feature of the day; canals, bridges, and life assurance being great favourites, which if injurious to the speculator, were beneficial to the country. To this period London owes Waterloo and Vauxhall bridges.."

Or the "excitement" of 1824 and 1825, which saw a rash of new companies and offers including the Bolivar Mining Company which promised "mountains, not mines" and a proposed railroad from Dover to Calais, along with a parliamentary steam company to speed bills through the House! Truly the nations of South America were emerging then, and if the rush to make loans there and other foreign lands did not prove troublesome enough, the folly of MacGregor’s Poyais Colony demonstrated that the further from home shores a great venture is proposed, the more excited imaginations become. A debacle followed in the Greek Loan, yet within ten years another bubble and burst in foreign stock was facilitated in the rush to finance military adventures in Portugal and Spain.

In the course of this financial history, houses and fortunes rose (Rothschilds, the Barings, Samuel Gideon, Thomas Guy) and fell (such as the crash of Douglas Heron). The book includes a wealth of colourful accounts and anecdotal history of speculators and intriguers, and vividly conveys a picture of financial life in Eighteenth and early Nineteenth century London.

It is of course the drama of the market’s turbulent nature, rather than its contribution to progress, which often consumes the attention of commentators. Francis points out that some of the finest pens in English literature were put to use ridiculing the role of projectors and speculators.

His counterpoint:

"what does not England owe to men who bore the burden and the heat of the day in the introduction of projects, which once household luxuries, they have made household necessities."

This reprint of the 1850 American Edition was published by Hindsight Books Limited in 2001 Leather-bound copies of this book are available directly from the publisher at www.hindsight-books.com Specialist Bookdealers in Company, Business & Investment History.

Keys: Stock Market, London Exchange, Investment, Government Debt, Manias, Bubbles, Rothschild, Barings, Thomas Guy, Lotteries, Tontines, Crashes
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