Figuring finance : London's new financial world and the iconography of speculation, circa 1689-1763
This thesis examines the ways in which the new financial world of early eighteenth-century London was interpreted, understood and represented through visual forms. The focus of the thesis is on the years between circa 1689 and 1763; that is from the Nine Years War, when deficit finance was first established, until the end of the Seven Years War, by which point its existence was more broadly accepted. It argues that these financial innovations had a determining impact upon the production of visual imagery, especially that produced by the London print market, and that images themselves were instrumental in the debates generated by an increasingly speculative financial world. Following an introduction establishing the aims, methods and scope of the thesis, the chapters take the form of a series of thematic studies chosen to address key issues and images. Chapter one examines the depiction of the Royal Exchange and Exchange Alley in a range of polite topographical prints and graphic satires. This allows for an overview of desirable and disreputable representations of commercial conduct. Chapter two takes as its theme the early years of the Bank of England, East India Company and South Sea Company as principal government creditors. It looks at their rivalry for a position in public finance and the image each company promoted through the premises they built between 1725 and 1734. The third chapter considers the establishment of the national debt and its early management. Graphic satires feature prominently in effecting visual retribution on those suspected of financial misconduct. In Chapter four the state lottery is examined as a form of generating revenue directly from the public and considers the part played by graphic products in questioning this government-sanctioned speculation. The fifth chapter is concerned with the representation of gaming and examines the ways in which it might be adapted to signify both virtuous and inappropriate economic conduct. The concluding chapter focuses on the response of the print market and the press to the turnaround in fortunes in the Seven Years War and how they register an apparent acceptance of the new financial institutions and developments of the preceding half-century.