The Wealth of Nations Rediscovered: Integration and Expansion in American Financial Markets, 1780-1850

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Robert E. Wright portrays the development of a modern financial sector--including a central bank, a national monetary system, a network of financial intermediaries, and efficient capital markets--as the driving force behind America's economic transition from agricultural colony to industrial juggernaut. He applies the economic theory of information asymmetry to understandings of early U.S. financial development, expanding on recent scholarship of finance-led economic growth. The book builds upon many of Adam Smith's lesser-known insights into financial relationships.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...[an] impressively researched and closely argued study..." American Historical Review

"...a significant contribution. Wright has thoroughly documented his conclusions in a clear, accessible style. His bibliography alone is worth the price of the book. The Wealth of Nations Rediscovered should be required reading for every student of American financial history." Business History Review

"Today the U.S. financial system is 'state of the art' and a foundation of our dynamic enterprise economy. Remarkably, as Wright demonstrates in this bold interpretation of early U.S. economic history, the same was true two centuries ago. Blending archival evidence with economic insights, Wright argues convincingly that financial developments led the economic expansion that transformed a weak, peripheral economy of the 1780s into a world leader by the 1850s." Richard Sylla, Stern School of Business, New York University

"Robert Wright has produced a path-breaking book with an original and revolutionary thesis. He persuasively argues that financial innovation and sophistication preceded advancements in transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. Active financial markets in major cities were a primary stimulus for the growth of the American economy in the first half of the nineteenth century." Edwin J. Perkins, University of Southern California

"Wright's thesis in The Wealth of Nations Rediscovered is simple and direct: Early U.S. financial development not only predated economic growth, but represented a necessary precondition for it. In supporting this hypothesis, Wright marshals an impressive array of evidence, from personal letters to manuscript bank records to published stock prices, and shows the principal players at work. Bankers and brokers recognized and resolved the information problems inherent in matching borrowers with lenders and, in so doing, fashioned a financial revolution. Wright's book nicely integrates original archival research with modern theory. It is, in short, an engaging mix of good history and good economics and I highly recommend it to historians and economists concerned with the development of the early American financial markets." Howard Bodenhorn, Lafayette College

"Wright has a fascinating story to tell economists and historians.... Recommended." Choice

"This is an important and highly readable book... Wright integrates anecdotal evidence with his quantitative data, which helps make a lively, argumentative text far more engaging than the highly technical analysis that dominates much of economic history." Journal of Ameican History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521812375
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2002
  • Edition description: 2002 First Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Wealth of Nations and national wealth; 2. The international and colonial background of America's financial revolution; 3. Banks, securities markets, and the reduction of asymmetric information; 4. The financial sector and the reduction of lending-related costs and risks; 5. Evidence of capital market integration, 1800–1850; 6. Expansion of the securities services sector, 1790–1850; 7. The freest of the free: regulation of the financial sector; 8. Finance-directed economic movement; 9. Conclusion: the wealth of nations rediscovered.
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