The book asks when financial development is good for growth. It turns to industrializing England for an answer, using London goldsmith bankers as a case study. The book traces the early history of domestic banking in eighteenth-century London. It reveals how goldsmiths learned to be bankers in the tumultuous early years of the century, how a few of them prospered in the South Sea Bubble, and how the banks operated after mid-century. Financial repression by the government—a response to the pressing need to finance ever longer and more expensive wars—was a key constraint for private financial development. The usury laws restricted the ability to lend; war-time borrowing shocks crowded out private loans. Based on new evidence from historical bank archives, especially those of Hoare's Bank, the authors compile a rich new dataset with micro-level information on lending decisions, cash ratios, and profitability. Their conclusions shed light on one of the great unsolved puzzles of the Industrial Revolution—if technological change was fast, why was growth itself slow? Their answer emphasizes the important difficulties thrown up the institutional context in Hanoverian England—a “warfare state” bent on repressing financial development to facilitate its access to private savings.
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