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We gather a new database to conduct the first historically informed study of the importance of liquidity and credit for government bonds between 1880 and 1910. We argue that colonial and sovereign debt markets were segmented owing to differences in underlying information asymmetries. The result was heterogeneous pricing of colonial and sovereign debt, and different market microstructures and clienteles, themselves influenced by political, institutional, and financial arrangements. We find that sovereign spreads mainly reflected credit risks, while colonial spreads mainly reflected liquidity risks. Liquidity premia were economically large and significant, contributing between 10 percent and 39 percent of colonial spreads. These findings help understanding why the seemingly dry subject of colonial illiquidity inspired passionate disputes and ground-breaking reforms of financial imperial institutions.
Throughout their long history, the primary concern of central banks has oscillated between price stability in normal times and financial stability in extraordinary times. In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, central banks have been given additional responsibilities to ensure financial stability, which has sparked intense debate over the nature of their role. Bankers and policy makers face an enormous challenge finding the right balance of power between the central bank and the state. This volume is the result of an international conference held at Norges Bank (the central bank of Norway). International experts and policy makers present research and historical analysis on the evolution of the central bank. They specifically focus on four key aspects: its role as an institution, the part it plays within the international monetary system, how to delineate and limit its functions, and how to apply the lessons of the past two centuries.
This article shows how one can read political history from evidence on corporate corruption. The study exploits newly discovered archival material from Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas, a politically connected investment bank. We contribute to current research by replacing existing conjectures with precise qualitative and quantitative evidence. After reviewing previous works and providing a sketch of information repression and media control in France during the interwar period, we argue that the study of patterns of ‘informational criminality’ provides an original entry to the writing of political history and the history of information.
Measurement of the value of “media capture” (the control of newspapers by business or political interests) is difficult. However, if capture is valuable, it should affect the price of newspaper shares. Useful information about the value of media capture should be retrievable from Stock Exchange data. Interwar France provides a unique setting to implement this idea because key newspapers floated voting and nonvoting stocks. Combined with takeover prices, data yield estimates of the price of media capture and of the time-series evolution of this price. Comparison with Britain sheds new light on a dark episode of French history.
This paper discusses the origins of rating in the second half of the nineteenth century. We review and criticize existing narratives, which—echoing a story told by lawyers favorable to (or employed by) the agencies—have alleged that a cultural shift in normative views, evidenced in an evolution of court decisions, provided legal protection (against libel) to agencies, and permitted the development of printed credit reports. Such a view is inconsistent with evidence from actual judicial decisions and from our exploration of archival material. Looking at both litigated and settled cases, we show that the rise of mercantile agencies in the late nineteenth century was the product of a farsighted corporate strategy applied ruthlessly to a legal system that was still very reluctant to permit the agencies to “commoditize” credit.
This article challenges the ‘regulatory license’ view that reliance by regulators on the output of rating agencies in the 1930s ‘caused’ the agencies to become a central part of the fabric of the US financial system. We argue that long before the 1930s, courts began using ratings as financial-community-produced norms of prudence. This created ‘a legal license’ problem, very analogous to the ‘regulatory license’ problem, and gave rise to conflicts of interest not unlike those that have been discussed in the context of the subprime crisis. Rating agencies may have had substantial responsibility for the Great Depression of the 1930s.