The year 1873 was one of financial crisis. A boom in railway construction had spurred a bull market—but when the boom turned to bust, transatlantic panic quickly became a worldwide economic downturn. In Transatlantic Speculations, Hannah Catherine Davies offers a new lens on the panics of 1873 and nineteenth-century globalization by exploring the ways in which contemporaries experienced a tumultuous period that profoundly challenged notions of economic and moral order.
Considering the financial crises of 1873 from the vantage points of Berlin, New York, and Vienna, Davies maps what she calls the dual “transatlantic speculations” of the 1870s: the financial speculation that led to these panics as well as the interpretative speculations that sprouted in their wake. Drawing on a wide variety of sources—including investment manuals, credit reports, business correspondence, newspapers, and legal treatises—she analyzes how investors were prompted to put their money into faraway enterprises, how journalists and bankers created and spread financial information and disinformation, how her subjects made and experienced financial flows, and how responses ranged from policy reform to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories when these flows suddenly were interrupted. Davies goes beyond national frames of analysis to explore international economic entanglement, using the panics’ interconnectedness to shed light on contemporary notions of the world economy. Blending cultural, intellectual, and legal history, Transatlantic Speculations gives vital transnational and comparative perspective on a crucial moment for financial markets, globalization, and capitalism.