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Axel Hughes
Axel Hughes

The Financial Revolution In England: A Study In The Development Of Public Credit, 1688-1756 (Modern



Peter Dickson's important study of the origins and development of the system of public borrowing which enabled Great Britain to emerge as a world power in the eighteenth century has long been out of print. The present print-on-demand volume reprints the book in the 1993 version published by Gregg Revivals, which made significant alterations to the 1967 original. These included a new introduction reviewing recent work, and, in particular, 33 pages of detailed annotations and corrections, which, taken together, justified its status as a second edition.




The Financial Revolution In England: A Study In The Development Of Public Credit, 1688-1756 (Modern


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Instead of focusing equally on all facets of the Financial Revolution, Murphy concentrates on the development of financial markets. She begins by exploring London's first stock-market boom and the introduction of tradable public securities in the 1690s, and the debate surrounding these innovations, in particular the derision of the dreaded stock jobbers (Chapters 1-3). One of the many virtues of this book is that it not only offers a sophisticated treatment of such financial mechanisms, but it also informs us about many of the surrounding cultural transformations that were essential for the development of a more sophisticated [End Page 287] system of finance, such as the birth of a financial press and the creation of informational networks (Chapters 5-6). The most original feature of this book is its rare insight into investors' thought processes, decision making, and trading strategies (Chapters 6-8).


This article explores David Hume's views on public credit, the state, and geopolitics as outlined in his Political Discourses. By drawing attention to Hume's analysis of the speed of political economic dynamics, the article suggests the philosopher feared that public credit, a crucial source of eighteenth-century European economic growth, fundamentally revolutionized the pace of social relations, the mechanics of the state, and European geopolitics at large. Hume's study of public credit highlighted its role in reshaping eighteenth-century visions of time, and the philosopher's disappointment with his own solution, in turn, reinforces the need to consider the multifaceted effects of public credit in the modern world.


David Hume, when describing the tools he used to navigate and explore the nature of knowledge,2 could have been recounting the perilous experience of the merchants aboard the Manila galleons that carried silver and spices between China, New Spain, and Europe, and propelled the early modern global economy.3 In the early eighteenth century, the War of Spanish Succession disrupted the silver trade, and warring states accumulated large debts.4 In response, political economists found in public credit a predictable financial mechanism that could replace Europe's dependence on the unreliable silver trade and rebalance the debt.5 Contemporaries soon found, however, that the use of public credit accelerated the growth and dissolution of wealth, and revolutionized contemporary views of time. This article suggests that Hume, in his Political Discourses, was concerned with tracing the rising influence of the political effects of the speed of the economy, and in particular, the velocity of public credit. Building on his epistemological concerns about the nature of political economy, the Scottish philosopher warned about the pressures that economic speed, channeled into the machinery of the state through public credit, would exert on the traditional bonds of society. This analysis turned on the eighteenth-century association between speed and despotism, and the nuanced ways in which the speed of public credit might accelerate the corruption of the state, and heighten geopolitical competition.


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