Monday, September 10, 2012

"Foreign Confidence" Conference

The 12th annual conference of the Program in Early American Economy and Society (PEAES) will bring together scholars from Europe and North America on October 11 and 12 to talk about a timely subject: “Foreign Confidence: International Investment in North America, 1700 to 1860.” During the colonial and early republic years, various international networks of individuals and institutions provided funds, credit, and knowledge to North Americans. These transnational resources spurred investors on different continents to join together in many commercial, transportation, philanthropic, and banking enterprises that might have been impossible to create if North Americans had undertaken them alone. New research by historians working in France, Spain, England, Holland, Mexico, and North Africa highlights the great reach of foreign capital and credit flowing into North America. Strategic international marriages and family collaborations across numerous empires helped shape these investing networks, as did elaborate efforts by investors to keep information secret. In fact, money and expertise from around the world were essential for early North American development.

The conference is co-sponsored by The Rothschild Archive, London, which was established in 1978 to preserve and arrange the records of a family that made profound contributions to the development and history of many countries. The Archive not only holds the Rothschild family history archive, it also maintains an international research center in London where scholars from around the world can gather to work on many themes related to financial and business history.

The keynote address on Thursday evening, “Atlantic History and Financial History,” will be given by Emma Rothschild of Harvard University. Following the themes in her recent book, The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History, Professor Rothschild will kick off the conference with reflections about how one (very large) Scottish family, the Johnstones, spread themselves and their investments around the world during the 18th century. Like other scholars participating in the conference program, she used a variety of records to illuminate a very complicated family portrait, including records of their voyages, marriages, debts, lawsuits, and innermost personal sentiments.

On Friday, a series of presentations by established scholars will further explore how foreign networks of individuals and institutions provided funds, credit, and knowledge to North Americans during a heady period of transnational investment and development. The final panel of the day will focus on the rich resources available in other countries for research into this topic.

For more about the conference, visit the PEAES website at We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

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