Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State: France and Great Britain, 1688-1789

By David Stasavage | Go to book overview

PUBLIC DEBT AND THE BIRTH OF THE
DEMOCRATIC STATE
FRANCE AND GREAT BRITAIN, 1688–1789

Does establishing representative democracy increase commitment to repay public debt? This book develops a new theory about the link between debt and democracy and applies it to a classic historical comparison: Great Britain in the eighteenth century, which had strong representative institutions and sound public finance, versus ancien regime France, which had neither. The book argues that whether representative institutions improve commitment depends on the opportunities for government creditors to form new coalitions with other social groups, which is more likely to occur when a society is divided across multiple political cleavages. It then presents historical evidence to show that improved access to finance in Great Britain after 1688 had as much to do with the development of the Whig Party as with constitutional changes. In France, the balance of partisan forces made it unlikely that an early adoption of “English-style” institutions would have improved credibility. Given the importance of government credibility for different issues, the arguments developed here will be relevant for a wide range of scholars.

David Stasavage is a Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics. His research focuses on the political economy of money and finance and on comparative political economy more generally. He holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University and has published in a number of political science and economics journals.

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