1837: Anatomy of a Panic

1837: Anatomy of a Panic

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q1837: Anatomy of a Panicq affirms that culture is, itself, an economic force. Peeling away the political and economic historiography surrounding the Panic of 1837, this dissertation examines primary sources from more than twenty archives in the United States and Great Britain to recover the experience of economic uncertainty between March and May of 1837. Business letters, newspapers, diaries, political cartoons, bills of exchange, novels, sermons, and legal records written during 1836-7 reveal the form and function of financial information during the American market revolution. Divided into seven chapters, the text is structured as a braided, chronological narrative that incorporates events in New York, New Orleans, and London into almost every chapter. Together, the chapters trace the people, paper, and institutions that spread financial information across the vast distances and political boundaries that separated local markets in the trans-Atlantic economy. The principle subjects of the dissertation are confidence brokers---people who traded financial information for power or profit. Private confidence brokers wrote letters to correspondents to judge the creditworthiness of paper currency while public confidence brokers circulated rumors in newspapers. As financiers awaited data to balance ledgers on both sides of the Atlantic, panicked people pursued legal, illegal, and even suicidal actions. Without a theory of the business cycle, contemporaries described their panic in terms of natural and divine disaster raising questions about human agency and victimhood. The attempts by commercial elites in each city to call upon financial and political institutions for an end to the panic reveal the effects of national systems of political economy on individuals. After banks throughout the United States had suspended specie payments, Americans reconsidered their experience of panic in national and international rather than local and personal terms establishing a historiographical tradition of emphasizing political causes for economic depression. This dissertation encourages economic historians to reconsider their application of twenty-first century methods to nineteenth-century crises, demonstrates the function of culture in capitalism, reconsiders the rise of nationalism and decline of the Atlantic World, and employs microhistorical methodology to provide a new form of historical synthesis.country, the general machinery of which has long been dirty and out of repair.a€64 In this statement, Kendall and Lumsden not only confirmed their agreement with the belief of Northern Christians that the nationa#39;s financial system needed theanbsp;...

Title:1837: Anatomy of a Panic
Author:Jessica M. Lepler
Publisher:ProQuest - 2007


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