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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Kleer, Richard A. 2015. Riding a wave: the Company's role in the South Sea Bubble. The Economic History Review, Vol. 68, Issue. 1, p. 264.

    Costen, Michael Davis, James Paul, Helen Walsh, Patrick Crook, Tom Velkar, Aashish and Godden, Christopher 2014. Review of periodical literature published in 2012. The Economic History Review, Vol. 67, Issue. 1, p. 240.


‘The folly of particulars’: the political economy of the South Sea Bubble

  • Richard Kleer (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 03 April 2012

In 1720 Britain embarked on a project to convert a large part of the public debt into shares in the South Sea Company. Most narratives assume the Company stood to profit from an anticipated increase in the market price of its shares. Though some have noted that this assumption is incorrect, no one has yet tried to find an alternative explanation for the Company's motivation for entering into the project. In this article I argue that the Company had no need to profit directly from the conversion operation and instead saw it as an opportunity to establish dominance in the British banking industry.

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ANONYMOUS. (1720c). A Farther Examination and Explanation of the South-Sea Company's Scheme, Shewing, that it is not the Interest of the South-Sea Company to Offer the Annuitants Such Terms as May Induce Them to Come In; and that the Proposal of the Bank is More Likely to Be Accepted by the Annuitants and the Publick Not Disappointed. 2nd edn.London: J. Roberts.

A Hutcheson . (1720c). Some Calculations Relating to the Proposals Made by the South-Sea Company, and the Bank of England, to the House of Commons; Shewing, the Loss to the New Subscribers, at the Several Rates in the Said Computations Mentioned; and the Gain Which Will Thereby Accrue to the Proprietors of the Old South-Sea Stock. By a Member of the House of Commons. London: J. Morphew.

A Hutcheson . (1720d). Some Seasonable Considerations for Those Who Are Desirous, by Subscription, or Purchase, to Become Proprietors of South-Sea Stock. With Remarks on the Surprizing Method of Valuing South-Sea Stock Publish'd in the Flying-Post of Saturday, April the 9th, 1720. London: J. Morphew.

A Hutcheson . (1721). A Collection of Treatises Relating to the National Debts & Funds. The First of Them Dated April the 11th, 1717. And the Last October the 30th, 1719. And Also a Collection of Treatises Relating to the South-Sea Stock and Scheme: the First of Them Dated March 31st, 1720 and the Last April 4th, 1721. London: [s.n.].

N Johnson . (2006). Banking on the king: the evolution of the royal revenue farms in old regime France. Journal of Economic History, 66(4), pp. 963–91.

[J Milner ]. (1720c). A Visit to the South-Sea Company and the Bank. In a Letter to a Friend, Concerning the Late Proposals for the Payment of the Nation's Debts. The Second Edition. To Which is Added, a Second Letter, Occasion'd by What Has Past Since, in Relation to the South Sea Company's Bargain. London: J. Roberts and A. Dodd.

L Neal . (2004). The monetary, financial and political architecture of Europe, 1648–1815. In L. Prados de la Escosura (ed.), Exceptionalism and Industrialisation: Britain and its European Rivals, 1688–1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

G Nichols . (1987). Intermediaries and the development of English government borrowing: the case of Sir John James and Major Robert Huntington, 1675–79. Business History, 29(1), pp. 2746.

L Presnell . (1953). Public monies and the development of English banking. Economic History Review, 5(3), pp. 378–97.

G Shea . (2007). Financial market analysis can go mad (in the search for irrational behaviour during the South Sea Bubble). Economic History Review, 60(4,) pp. 742–65.

F Velde . (2009). Was John Law's system a bubble? The Mississippi Bubble revisited. In J. Atack and L. Neal (eds.), The Origins and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Financial History Review
  • ISSN: 0968-5650
  • EISSN: 1474-0052
  • URL: /core/journals/financial-history-review
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