Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic

Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic

Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic

Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic

Synopsis

Modern financial theories enable us to look at old problems in early American Republic historiography from new perspectives. Concepts such as information asymmetry, portfolio choice, and principal-agent dilemmas open up new scholarly vistas. Transcending the ongoing debates over the prevalence of either community or capitalism in early America, Wright offers fresh and compelling arguments that illuminate motivations for individual and collective actions, and brings agency back into the historical equation.

Excerpt

Histories of the Revolutionary, Constitutional, Early National, and Antebellum periods produced in the last three or four decades are extremely rich—in some ways. Historians have looked anew at perennial topics of interest from a wide variety of intriguing standpoints; detailed studies of artisans, Indians, mechanics, women, yeomen farmers, and many other understudied groups have greatly enriched scholars’ understanding of the nation’s formative years. That understanding, however, is far from complete. Many important perspectives on the past have hitherto been almost completely ignored.

The thesis of this book is simple: a financial interpretation of early U.S. history can increase scholars’ understanding of important historical issues. “Finance” is meant here in its narrower sense of the science of the management of money, investments, and credit, and not in its wider sense of the monetary resources of a business, government, or individual. in other words, this book looks at history from the standpoint of financial theories, not from the standpoint of the financial resources of historical actors. the goal is to understand known facts in new ways, not to unearth hidden motivations or scandalous financial incentives influencing public policy makers. the approach, in other words, is more Ricardian than Beardian.

The argument essentially is one of example; the book includes financial interpretations of the Revolution, of the early constitutions, of U.S. economic growth and political stability, of the critical election of 1800, of the nature of dueling, and of women’s political,

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