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The Architecture, Experience, and Aftermath of a Financial Disaster

Politics of the Present, The Money Series, Past Series

dateApril 24, 2017 timeMonday, 2:00pm EDT location Buell Hall, East Gallery (Maison Française), Columbia University
  • Department of French
  • Maison Française
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated
  • Papers will be pre-circulated: please email Carl Wennerlind at [email protected]

The Architecture, Experience, and Aftermath of a Financial Disaster: John Law and the Mississippi Bubble
​In an effort to marshal resources to meet the escalating demands of war, empire, and state formation, European governments developed a set of sophisticated financial mechanisms around the turn of the eighteenth century. Soon, however, the already impressively complex financial architecture nearly crumbled due to a series of cataclysmic stock market crashes. The South Sea Bubble in England and the Mississippi Bubble in France left the newly formed modern culture of credit in complete disarray. In this one-day workshop, six French historians explore the conditions that led to the creation of John Law’s financial scheme, the intellectual context in which it became possible for people to believe in modern finance, the role that political ideology played during the bubble, the experience of living during the immediate aftermath of the crash, and the overall geopolitical context of the rise and fall of Law’s system.

To obtain copies of the pre-circulated papers, please contact Carl Wennerlind, [email protected]. Attendance is not dependent on having read the papers.


Opening Remarks
Carl Wennerlind, Barnard College

“The Chamber of Justice and the Rise of John Law”
Erik Goldner, Cal State, Northridge

"Magical Politics: John Law's System and State propaganda (1717-1720)"
Arnaud Orain, Université Paris 8

“The Spirit of Speculation: John Law and Economic Theology in the Age of Lights.”
Charly Coleman, Columbia University


“The Geopolitics of Global Trade and Public Credit: The South Sea, Mississippi, and Ostend Companies, 1711–1731.”
John Shovlin, NYU

“Two Days of Financial Panic in the French Countryside: The Mississippi Bubble in the Notarial Archives of La Bastide Clairence (October 30-31, 1720).”
Pierre Force, Columbia University

David Bell, Princeton University

  • Chair Carl Wennerlind Associate Professor of History Barnard College
  • Presenter Charly Coleman Assistant Professor of History Columbia University
  • Presenter Pierre Force Professor, Department of French and Romance Philology Columbia University
  • Presenter Erik Goldner Associate Professor California State University, Northridge
  • Presenter Arnaud Orain Professor University of Paris 8
  • Presenter John Shovlin Associate Professor of History New York University
  • Commenter David Bell Professor Princeton University