I though I’d be topical and talk about financial matters, especially "interesting" ones.
But first, prize winners! I selected three winners from the blog on historicals and masks/secrets. Thanks for filling in so well for me when I was in Australia. I may blog about some of the historical aspects there one day soon. Like the convict who tried to escape in a kangaroo suit… But I digress. Or tease.*G*
Theo wins a book for her observation that in Phantom the disguise is almost a third entity in the plot. Yes, perhaps that’s what a disguise, and also a secret, needs to be.
Rev Melinda wins for pointing us to one of the profound aspects. "one of the central psychological and spiritual tasks of adulthood– the task of knowing oneself, of coming to terms with that self, and of allowing oneself to be seen, and known, and loved, by others." Beautiful.
Anh Piper wins for a fascinating glimpse into the morgue. " we had many instances where people had 3 or more names written on the board. It was really very odd."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your choice of book. I’ve just received some copies of a Christmas collection from Harlequin called A Bride For Christmas. (Sorry for the picture quality. I haven’t had time to scan it.) My story in there is’nt new — it’s The Wise Virgin — but the other two stories are by the excellent Heather Graham and Candace Camp, and I haven’t yet added it to my book list.
On to financial nuttiness.
I believe back when one of the Wenches mentioned the great tulip mania of the 17th century.
"At the peak of tulip mania in February 1637 tulip contracts sold for
more than 20 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is
generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble. The term "tulip mania" is often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble."
Apparently there is some debate about the extent of the mania, see article here and whether it was exaggerated in the 19th century book Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which is still a good read. It is also suggested that there was a speculative bubble in hyacinths in the early 19th century. (Is there a Regency spy plot with a twist there?) I find it totally delightful that people could become so fervent about flowers.
It’s not gone away. Also from Wikipedia. "Garber also notes that, "a small quantity of prototype lily bulbs
recently was sold for 1 million guilders ($480,000 at 1987 exchange
rates)", demonstrating that even today flowers can command extremely
Perhaps speculation in tulips was all good business after all.
Moving on, we have the South Sea Bubble that occurred through overheated speculation in the shares of the South Sea Company. The stock price collapsed after reaching a peak in September 1720.
The South Sea Company (1711 – c1850s) was an English company granted a monopoly to trade with South America under a treaty with Spain.
I don’t really understand this one, but it has all the feel of modern economics. Again, from Wikipedia.
"In return for its exclusive trading rights the government saw an
opportunity for a profitable trade-off. The government and the company
convinced the holders of around £10 million of short-term government
debt to exchange it with a new issue of stock in the company. In
exchange, the government granted the company a perpetual annuity from
the government paying £576,534 annually on the company’s books, or a
perpetual loan of £10 million paying 6%. This guaranteed the new equity
owners a steady stream of earnings to this new venture. The government
thought it was in a win-win situation because it would fund the
interest payment by placing a tariff on the goods brought from South
At the same time — financial irresponsibility, or perhaps just extravagance, must have been in the air — France was inflating the Mississippi Bubble Similar idea. Different location.
Things don’t change, do they?
Do you know of any other historical bubbles?
What fiction has used these bubbles as plot elements?
What about other financial elements in novels? There’s the famous buying at the right time at the end of Heyer’s A Civil Contract, of course. (I wrote the foreword to Harlequin’s reissue of that, so it’s another book you winners could have a copy of.)
I used the Duke of Bridgwater’s problems with raising money for his canals in Tempting Fortune.
For dramatic purposes, it’s useful that back then stock holders in companies were responsible for company debts.
Do you think financial matters are a rich lode untapped for historical fiction, or is it all too mundane, and best left alone?
So that’s what popped into my mind in this week of interesting financial times. Share your thoughts.
I’m off to Ottawa next week to speak at the Sweet and Spicy conference there. There’s a signing on the Sunday, so if you’re in that area, come and say hello.