German bubble companies in 1720: transferring power and knowledge

German bubble companies in 1720: transferring power and knowledge
09 Mar 2018, 17:15 to 09 Mar 2018, 19:15
IHR Seminar Room N304, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Eve Rosenhaft , University of Liverpool

This paper reflects an ongoing research project on the responses of Germans to the Bubbles of 1720, which combines an exploration of the circulation of information and imagery in the German lands with archival research aimed at establishing the character and extent of Germans’ direct involvement in joint-stock trading in the early eighteenth century. 

The paper focuses on a case which is probably not unique in the German experience of 1720, and which may be more typical than the experience of direct investment in the South Sea or Mississippi projects: the parallel projects, organised by Londoners, of establishing a new joint-stock company for a linen manufacture in the city of Braunschweig and creating a joint-stock bank for the Duchy of Braunschweig based on the sale of lottery tickets.  Both of these projects had failed by 1722.  The correspondence between the members of the Braunschweig Privy Council, the English projectors and the Duke’s resident in London, held in the Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv in Wolfenbüttel, traces a learning process on the part of the Germans that leads from cautious interest through enthusiasm to disappointment; for two generations the Dukes of Braunschweig had pursued practical policies for promoting the territory’s mercantile economy, but the experience of 1720 – and in particular their observations of the crash in London and Paris – drove their councillors back to a position of radical scepticism about the possibilities for growth.  At the same time the sources expose real challenges of ‘translation’ in the interchange between English and German actors based in London and those based in the German provinces, reflecting different degrees of experience with ‘modern’ financial practices. The paper explores both the English and the German ‘sides’ in the conversation, considering the interests and motivations as well as the languages at work in both urban centres, in the light of the wider evidence for patterns of knowledge and technology transfer in the Bubble crisis. 


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