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A Short History of Derivative Security Markets


  • Ernst Juerg Weber

    (UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia)


Contracts for future delivery of commodities spread from Mesopotamia to Hellenistic Egypt and the Roman world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, contracts for future delivery continued to be used in the Byzantine Empire in the eastern Mediterranean and they survived in canon law in western Europe. It is likely that Sephardic Jews carried derivative trading from Mesopotamia to Spain during Roman times and the first millennium AD, and, after being expelled from Spain, to the Low Countries in the sixteenth century. Derivative trading on securities spread from Amsterdam to England and France at the turn of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, and from France to Germany in the early nineteenth century. Circumstantial evidence indicates that bankers and banks were at the forefront of derivative trading during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Suggested Citation

  • Ernst Juerg Weber, 2008. "A Short History of Derivative Security Markets," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 08-10, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwa:wpaper:08-10

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James T. Moser, 1994. "Origins of the modern exchange clearinghouse: a history of early clearing and settlement methods at futures exchanges," Working Paper Series, Issues in Financial Regulation 94-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    2. Gary S. Shea, 2005. "Understanding financial derivatives during the South Sea Bubble: the case of the South Sea subscription shares," CDMA Working Paper Series 200512, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    3. Ernst Juerg Weber, 2001. "Central Bank Gold Holdings," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 01-03, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
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