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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Credit crunch

The financial news is so dire at the moment, one’s frightened to turn on the TV or radio in case there’s been another catastrophe. Banking crises are sadly nothing new. During my research for Regency Cheshire, I’ve been learning about the great bank crash of 1825. Many country banks went bust, and their banknotes were withdrawn. The Royal Mint coined 150,000 sovereigns per day to meet the unprecedented demand for hard currency. The country’s credit was only saved by the accidental discovery of hundreds of thousands of one pound notes lying forgotten somewhere in the Bank of England (presumably in someone’s underwear drawer.) (Knight’s History of England, 1868.) The financial crisis continued into the following year; thousands of firms went bankrupt. Industrial firms, who employed many workers in Lancashire and Cheshire, were especially hard hit.
One high profile literary victim of the financial crash was author Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832.) A disastrous partnership with his publishers meant he became liable for vast debts when the firm collapsed; his remaining years were spent battling ill-health and heroically trying to repay his creditors.
Image: Sir Walter Scott, Great Authors of English Literature, 1899.

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