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19th September 2017
 
Title: The Great Swindle: The Story of the South Sea Bubble
Author: Cowles, Virginia
Price: £14.50
Publisher: Hindsight Books
Date Published: 2002
Specifications: Soft cover, 192pp., 5.5" x 8", 250g.
ISBN: 0954156714
Condition: Very good (as new)
Copies in stock: 972
Category: Finance More books in this category
Book type: Investment History
Hindsight ID: 1613
The Great Swindle: The Story of the South Sea Bubble

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Notes: Includes new introduction by Dr. Marc Faber. First published 1960.

Keys: South Sea Bubble, Speculation, London, Eighteenth Century, Crash, Sir John Blunt, Stanhope, Walpole, Craggs, Fraud

Review: As winter turned to spring in 1720, London was afflicted with a speculative mania unprecedented in British history. As the "Bubble" of the South Sea Company stock reached its peak in the summer, new wealth was apparent throughout the City as profits, or credit on the expectation of gain, was expended in a display of finery, and conspicuous consumption. "We are informed that since the hurly-burly of stock jobbing there has appeared in London 200 new Coaches and Chariots, besides as many more on the stocks ... above 4,000 embroider'd Coats; about 3,000 gold watches at the sides of whores and wives; and some few acts of charity". Other promoters rushed to the market with their own "bubble stocks" keen to tap the public's enthusiasm - "any novelty could be sure of finding an imitator within a few days" - and money rushed in from the provinces. By Autumn, however the dream had turned to nightmare, and it was losses, debts and duplicity that preoccupied the Kingdom, as South Sea stock, and other new offerings, crashed. In the centuries since, this manic cycle has been repeated time and again, as we have most recently been reminded in the great "dotcom" boom. 

Cowle's account, first published in 1960, documents the origins of this early speculative episode in the needs of an unpopular monarchy, ambitious politicians, distressed government debt, and the allure of John Law's apparently successful revival of French credit. The latter enterprise (the Mississippi scheme) also ended in catastrophe, though not before giving us the use of the French word "millionaire", yet was not heeded when inconvenient, and thus failed to provide an opportunity to defuse the events in England that euphoric summer. 

The text has now been reprinted by Hindsight Books with the benefit of a new introduction by Dr. Marc Faber, an authority of international market behaviour, as part of its library of investment history.

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