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Title: Knowing sovereigns : forms of knowledge and the changing practice of sovereign lending
Author: Bruneau, Quentin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 0298
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines how sovereign lending, i.e. the practice of lending capital to sovereigns, has changed since the early nineteenth century. It tackles this question by investigating how lenders have thought about sovereigns for the past two centuries, focusing on the tools they have used to know and represent them. I argue that there was a critical shift in the early twentieth century in terms of the kinds of knowledge lenders deployed to know sovereigns. This shift differentiates the old sovereign lending from the new. In the old sovereign lending, merchant banking families such as the Rothschilds knew sovereigns through intensely personal relations based on gentility, whereas in the new sovereign lending, joint stock banks, credit rating agencies and international institutions largely came to know sovereigns through statistics. Though difficult to imagine nowadays, the description of sovereigns through quantifiable facts (the original definition of 'statistics') was revolutionary for early twentieth century lenders. Despite constituting the origins of sovereign credit ratings, this key shift has been overlooked in all major studies about sovereign debt. The new sovereign lending rose to prominence from the interwar period to the 1970s and now defines our world. The identification of this crucial shift is based on the development and application of the concept of forms of knowledge. Forms of knowledge refer to enduring ways of knowing and representing the constituent units of the international system used by international practitioners (e.g. diplomats, military strategists, financiers, and international lawyers). Examples of forms of knowledge include, but are not limited to, modern cartography, international treaties, statistics, gentility, and heraldry. The use of this concept is that it leads to a better understanding of how international practitioners and their practices undergo radical changes. In so doing, it provides a firmer empirical grasp on the question of how fundamental discontinuities arise in international relations.
Supervisor: Keene, Eddie Sponsor: Fond de Recherche du Québec - Société et Culture (FRQSC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Debts ; Public--History--19th century ; Debts ; Public--History--20th century ; Merchant banks ; International finance--History ; World politics ; International relations--History--19th century ; International relations--History--20th century