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New Evidence on the First Financial Bubble

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  • Rik G.P. Frehen
  • William N. Goetzmann
  • K. Geert Rouwenhorst

Abstract

The first global financial bubble in stock prices occurred 1720 in Paris, London and the Netherlands. Explanations for these linked bubbles primarily focus on the irrationality of investor speculation and the corresponding stock price behavior of two large firms: the South Sea Company in Great Britain and the Mississippi Company in France. In this paper we examine a broad cross‐section of security price data to evaluate the causes of the bubbles. Using newly collected stock prices for British and Dutch firms in 1720, we find evidence against indiscriminate irrational exuberance and evidence in favor of speculation about two factors: the Atlantic trade and the incorporation of insurance companies. We study the role of innovation in the insurance market by examining market betas and volatilities of new insurance company shares, like (Pastor & Veronesi, Technological Revolutions and Stock Prices, 2009). We find strong evidence for a revolution in the insurance business in 1720. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that financial bubbles require a plausible story to justify investor optimism.

Suggested Citation

  • Rik G.P. Frehen & William N. Goetzmann & K. Geert Rouwenhorst, 2009. "New Evidence on the First Financial Bubble," NBER Working Papers 15332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15332
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Grossman, Richard, 2017. "Stocks for the Long Run: New Monthly Indices of British Equities, 1869-1929," CEPR Discussion Papers 12121, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Grahame Thompson, 2011. "Financial Globalization? History, Conditions and Prospects," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Globalisation, Second Edition, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Yang Hu & Les Oxley, 2017. "Exuberance in Historical Stock Prices during the Mississippi and South Seas Bubble Episodes," Working Papers in Economics 17/08, University of Waikato.
    4. Benjamin Golez & Peter Koudijs, 2014. "Four Centuries of Return Predictability," NBER Working Papers 20814, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Marie Briere & Kim Oosterlinck & Ariane Szafarz, 2013. "Virtual Currency, Tangible Return: Portfolio Diversification with Bitcoin," Working Papers CEB 13-031, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Turner, John D., 2017. "The development of English company law before 1900," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-01, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    7. Condorelli, Stefano, 2014. "The 1719-20 stock euphoria: a pan-European perspective," MPRA Paper 68652, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2015.
    8. Peter Koudijs, 2013. "The boats that did not sail: Asset Price Volatility and Market Efficiency in a Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 18831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. William N. Goetzmann, 2015. "Bubble Investing: Learning from History," NBER Working Papers 21693, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Yang Hu & Les Oxley, 2017. "Exuberance in British Share Prices during the Railway Mania of the 1840s: Evidence from the Phillips, Shi and Yu Test," Working Papers in Economics 17/09, University of Waikato.
    11. Quinn, William, 2016. "Technological revolutions and speculative finance: Evidence from the British Bicycle Mania," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2016-06, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    12. Madarász, Aladár, 2011. "Buborékok és legendák. Válságok és válságmagyarázatok - II/2. rész. A Déltengeri Társaság
      [Bubbles and myths, crises and explanations II/2: the South Sea bubble]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(12), pages 1001-1028.
    13. Quinn, William, 2016. "Squeezing the bears: Cornering risk and limits on arbitrage during the 'British Bicycle Mania', 1896-1898," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2016-05, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    14. repec:eee:ecolet:v:162:y:2018:i:c:p:131-134 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Hu, Yang & Oxley, Les, 2018. "Do 18th century ‘bubbles’ survive the scrutiny of 21st century time series econometrics?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 131-134.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East

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