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This article examines the literature on the periodical recurrence of economic crises up to the 1840s, illustrating how awareness of this phenomenon was far more widespread than the few existing histories of business cycle theories indicate, that observations of this phenomenon began much earlier than previously documented, and also that early writers were more interested in emphasizing the intermittent return of crises rather than their precise timing.

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Adam Anderson . 1789. An historical and chronological deduction of the origin of commerce: from the earliest accounts. Containing an history of the great commercial interests of the British Empire. To which is prefixed an introduction, exhibiting a view of the ancient and modern state of Europe; of the importance of our colonies; and of the commerce, shipping, manufactures, fisheries, &c., of Great-Britain and Ireland; and their influence on the landed interest. With an appendix, containing the modern politico-commercial geography of the several countries of Europe, vol. IV. London: J. Walter (revised edition).

[William Anderson ]. 1826. The iniquity of the landholders, the mistakes of the farmers, and the folly and mischievous consequences of the unaccountable apathy manifested by all the other classes of the community, in regard to the corn laws, clearly demonstrated by a simple statement of indisputable facts, or intuitive inferences. London: Wilson.

Anonymous. 1838. Minutes of the proceedings of a convention of merchants and others held in Augusta, Georgia, October 16, 1837: with an address to the people of the south and south-western states, relative to the establishment of a direct export and import trade with foreign countries. Augusta: B. Brantly.

Matthew Baillie Begbie . 1848. Partnership ‘en commandite’, or, Partnership with limited liabilities (according to the commercial practice of the continent of Europe, and the United States of America) for the employment of capital, the circulation of wages, and the revival of our home and colonial trade. London: Wilson.

Daniele Besomi . 2006a. “Formal modelling vs. insight in Kalecki’s theory of the business cycle.” Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 24A, pp. 1–48.

Daniele Besomi . 2008. “John Wade’s early endogenous dynamic model: ‘Commercial cycle’ and theories of crises.” European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 15: 4, December, pp. 611–39.

Eugène Buret . 1840. De la misère des classes laborieuses en Angleterre et en France: de la nature de la misère, de son existence, de ses effets, de ses causes, et de l’insuffisance des remèdes qu’on lui a opposés jusqu’ici: avec l’indication des moyens propres à en affranchir les sociétés (2 vol.). Paris: Paulin.

Matthew Carey . 1823. The Crisis: A solemn appeal to the president, the Senate and House of Representatives, and the citizens of the United States, on the destructive effects of the present policy of this country, on its agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and finances. With a comparison between the extraordinary prosperity of Great Britain, and the general depression in the United States…. Philadelphia: Carey and Lea.

George Chalmers . 1794. An estimate of the comparative strength of Great-Britain, during the present and four preceding reigns; and of the losses of her trade from every war since the Revolution. A new edition, corrected and improved; with a dedication to Dr. James Currie, the reputed author of ‘Jasper Wilson’s Letter’. London: J. Stockdale.

John Towne Danson . 1848. “A Contribution towards an Investigation of the changes which have taken place in the condition of the people of the United Kingdom during the eight years extending from the harvest of 1889 to the harvest of 1847; and An Attempt to develope the connexion (if any), between the changes observed and the variations occurring during the same period in the prices of the most necessary articles of food.” Journal of the Statistical Society of London 11: 2, May, pp. 101–40.

William Huskisson . 1826. “Free trade: speech of the Right Hon. W. Huskisson in the House of Commons, Thursday, the 23d of February, 1826, on Mr. Ellice’s motion for a select committee to inquire into and examine the statements contained in the various petitions from persons engaged in the silk manufacture.” Hansard, The Parliamentary debates, New Series XIV, 2 February–17 March 1826, pp. 763–809 (reprinted as a pamphlet: London: J. Hatchard, 1826).

William Huskisson . 1830. State of the country. Speech of the Right Hon. W. Huskisson in the House of Commons, Thursday, the 18th of March, 1830; on Mr E.D. Davenport’s motion “That the petitions complaining of the distress of various classes of the community be referred to a Committee of the whole House, with a view to inquire into the causes of their grievances, and the remedy thereof. ” London: John Murray.

Harry Edward Miller . 1927. Banking theories in the United States before 1860. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[Auguste Ott ]. 1854. “Crise.” In A. Ott , ed., Dictionnaire des sciences politiques et sociales comprenant la politique, la diplomatie, le droit naturel, le droit ds gens, les rapports de l’Eglise et de l’Etat, l’administration, les finances, la police, la force armée, l’économie politique et la statistique: avec le texte ou le résumé des traités les plus importants, des constitutions et lois fondamentales des peuples anciens et modernes, et l’analyse des principaux ouvrages sur la politique et les autres sciences sociales…. Paris: Migne, pp. 1387–92.

William Pleydell-Bouverie Radnor . 1842. Speech of the Earl of Radnor on the corn laws in the House of Lords, August 4, 1842, on moving the second reading of a bill to repeal the Corn Importation Act: also a protest against the rejection of the bill: with an appendix containing a protest against the income tax, &c. &c. London: Hooper.

[James H. Renny ]. 1840. A letter to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Melbourne upon the state of banking in England during the last fifty years, particularly with reference to the position and proceedings of the Bank of England and their effects of the trade, manufactures, and agriculture of the country, and on the condition of the working classes. By a merchant. London: Smith, Elder, and co.

[Thomas Perronet Thompson ]. 1826. An exposition of fallacies on rent, tithes, &c. containing an examination of Mr. Ricardo’s theory of rent and of the arguments brought against the conclusion that tithes and taxes on the land are paid by landlords, the doctrine of the impossibility of a general glut, and other propositions of the modern school: with an inquiry into the comparative consequences of taxes on agricultural and manufactured produced: being in the form of a review of the 3d. ed. of Mr. Mill’s Elements of political economy. By a member of the University of Cambridge. London: Hatchard.

Robert Torrens . 1844. An inquiry into the practical working of the proposed arrangements for the renewal of the charter of the Bank of England, and the regulation of the currency: with a refutation of the fallacies advanced by Mr. Tooke: to which is added, a reply to the objections of the Westminster Review to the government plan for the regulation of currency. London: Smith, Elder.

John Wade . 1833. History of the middle and working classes; with a popular exposition of the economical and political principles which have influenced the past and present condition of the industrious orders. Also an Appendix of prices, rates of wages, population, poor-rates, mortality, marriages, crimes, schools, education, occupations, and other statistical information, illustrative of the former and present state of society and of the agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing classes. London: Effingham Wilson. Second ed. 1834 (reprinted: New York: Kelley, 1966), 3rd edition 1835.

Levi Woodbury . 1840. “Report of the Secretary of the Treasury. On the finances. Public debt and treasury notes. Exports and imports within the commercial year 1839. Estimate of the receipts and expenditure for 1840. Explanations of the estimates as to the expenditures and of some further reductions in them. On some permanent safeguard under fluctuations in receipts and expenditures. The manner of keeping the public money, with the proper guards against losses. Condition of banking institutions generally, and the kind of money receivable for public dues. Miscellaneous.” Niles’ Weekly Register 7: 19, 4 January, pp. 293–8.

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Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
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