Conference: The War within: finance and morality in Europe, 1630-1815


The War within: finance and morality in Europe, 1630-1815

University of Reading

3-4 December 2015




Anne Dubet (Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand)


Joel Felix (University of Reading)


The War within: finance and morality in Europe, 1630-1815


Since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, a series of scandals have shaken public confidence in the world of banking and corporate finance, and raised doubts about its accountability and its morality, as well as its ability to provide an efficient and sustainable environment for the peaceful development of nations and citizens in the globalised economy. In seeking to understand the present, commentators have looked back to previous great crises, such as the infamous Tulipmania in Amsterdam (1637), the succession of European Bubbles (1720) or the Wall Street Crash (1929). While these crises and the memory of them had a considerable impact on state policies and public attitudes towards finance and financiers in the short and medium term, they can also be seen as the culmination of longer term changes that challenged the traditional order of things and called for a renegotiation of the relationship between the state, the economy and the public – a debate that, arguably, we need to start today.

This international conference funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), and with support from the Centre for Economic History (CeCH, University of Reading) and the Centre d’Histoire Espaces et Cultures (CHEC, Université de Clermont-Ferrand), will bring together, at the University of Reading (3-4 December), 15 specialists from 8 countries to examine some of the societal challenges brought about by the costs of the long wars of attrition that engulfed Europe between the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815). While many historical studies have shown that the funding of international warfare had a profound impact on institutional and economic developments, less work has been done on the ways in which European polities responded to the ‘War within’ that pitted those who benefited from war expenditure against those who paid for the military effort. A series of case studies on Spain, Venice, the Dutch provinces, the Austrian Low Countries, Prussia, France, Britain and Sweden will analyse some of the conflicts that arose when the needs and methods of financing war met social demands for morality and accountability. Again, these are fundamental questions that still resonate and have relevance today as governments and societies try to move on from the Global Financial Crisis.


Day 1: Thursday 3 December 2015

9.30-10.00: Registration

10.00-10.15: Welcome and Introduction


10.15-11.30: Session 1. Chair: Dr David Parrott, New College University of Oxford

– Dr Erik Thomson. The University of Manitoba, Canada

Accounting for power: Swedish and French approaches to the harnessing of mercantile interest during the Thirty Years War

– Dr Francisco Gil Martínez, Universidad de Almería, Spain

The fraud encouraged by the state: pardons and “composiciones” in the seventeenth century


11.30-12.00: Break


12.00-13. 15: Session 2 Chair: Dr Helen Paul, University of Southampton

– Dr Brodie Waddell. Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

‘The common subject of all conversation: popular responses to the impact of war on England, 1689-1697’

– Dr David Celetti. University of Padua, Italy

From Candia to Morea (1645-1699). Financial crisis, frauds, controls, and moral discourses in the Republic of Venice


13.15-14.00: Lunch


14.00-15.15: Session 3. Chair: Professor Roger Knight

– Dr Aaron Graham, The University of Oxford, UK

Warfare, Finance and the Morality of Corruption in Britain, 1689-1815

– Dr Robert Bernsee. University of Heidelberg, Germany

For the Good of the Prince. Government and Corruption in Germany during the Long 18th Century


15.15-15.45: Break


15.45-17.00: Session 4. Chair: Professor Anne Dubet, Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, France

– Prof. Agustín González Enciso, Universidad de Navarra, Spain

Spanish eighteenth century contractors: from particular interest to particular state privileges

– Prof. Stephen Conway, University College London, UK

’Economical reform’ revisited: Another look at the battle over British public finance, 1779-1783


17.30-18.30: Guest lecture

Prof. Larry Neal, University of Illinois, USA

The emergence of modern finance, 1789 -1830: a tale of three revolutions.



Day 2: Friday 4 December 2015


9.30-10.00. Registration

10.00-11.15: Session 5 Chair: Dr Frank Tallett, University of Reading

– Dr Patrik Winton, Uppsala University, Sweden

 War, resources and politics: Sweden 1740-1762.

– Prof. Mark Knights, University of Warwick, UK

Offices for sale: Military venality in its wider context


11.15-11.45: Break


11.45-13.00: Session 6 Chair: Prof. Julian Swann, Birkbeck College

– Prof. Marie-Laure Legay, Université Lille 3, France

The question of Counterfeit Money in the Southern Netherlands, 1710-1730

– Dr Francois R. Velde, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, USA

The Talhouët affair: graft and punishment in 1723 France


13.00-14.00 Lunch


14.00-16.00: Session 7. Chair: Dr Tony Moore, University of Reading

– Prof. Anne Dubet, Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand, France

Moral standards and negotiation: the Spanish monarchy and its financiers in the first half of the 18th century

– Prof. Julian Hoppit, University College London, UK

British government views of smuggling in the eighteenth century

– Dr Toon Kerkhoff, Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Corruption, state formation and institutional reform in the early modern Netherlands

16.00-16.30: Conclusion. Professor Mark Casson, University of Reading



Queries: Joel Felix and cc.