The history of the global securities market is both the history of a market and the institutions which made it work. On the one hand it traces the growing importance of transferable government debt and corporate stocks and bonds and the role they played in economic and political affairs of the world. On the other hand, it recognizes the need to devise methods of trading and organizational systems that allowed these securities to become an integral part of national and international financial systems. There is a strong tendency to see the development of the global securities market solely from the perspective of those who raised money through the issue of stocks and bonds. However, of equal or even greater importance was the position of those who bought, held, and traded these securities. In many ways the driving force behind the growth of the global securities market has not been the needs of governments and business, because their financial requirements could be met in a variety of different ways, but the desire by investors for an asset that was easily divisible, mobile, and flexible in terms of space and time, as well as delivering a return either through income or capital appreciation. Securities became that asset and the securities market grew and thrived over the centuries despite all the setbacks it suffered and the attempts made by governments to curb or even destroy it. Securities were like money itself, an essential element within the fabric of life, and this made the global securities market an integral component of the modern world economy.
This history of the global securities market divides into six distinct periods. The first begins in the twelfth century and culminates in 1720. In this early period securities markets emerged as a distinct entity within the financial system of many European countries, trading mainly government debt. However, even in Amsterdam, the leading financial centre by 1700, this trading lacked an organized forum being but one component of a general market for commodities, bills of exchange, and other financial instruments. The second period from 1720 lasted until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. During most of the eighteenth century securities markets made many advances in terms of organization and importance, with Paris leading the former and