Lina Weber, ASH PhD candidate, will defend the dissertation entitled 'Bound by debt. Political arguments concerning state finance in Great Britain and the Dutch Republic, 1694-1795' supervised by Prof. Wyger Velema and Dr Ida Nijenhuis.
This dissertation investigates the perception of foreign investments in state finance. Following the so-called financial revolution in England, which started in the 1690s, Dutchmen participated in England’s and, after 1707, Britain’s evolving national debt. Contemporaries used pamphlets, journals, tracts, translations, and prints to interpret and communicate the resulting international creditor-debtor relationship. Analysing this commentary, the study argues that lending across national borders was perceived as a highly political phenomenon. Authors used a language of slavery and dependence, of looming ruin and great empowerment, to shape public opinion about the consequences of foreign investments in national debt. This observation is explained with the conceptualisation of national debt and public credit: in the decades after the start of the financial revolution, evolving state finance were understood by projecting mercantile credit and private debt on the body politic. In the second half of the eighteenth century, defenders of public borrowing advanced a more depersonalised and abstract interpretation of public credit and national debt, enabling political economists to develop a more detached and scientific interpretation of foreign investments. The majority of commentators, however, continued to describe the state indebted to foreigners and the citizen who had invested abroad in highly political terms.