Front Matter

Author:

What is the stock market, and why is it always on the news? Why is finance so important? How do stock markets work, and what do they really do? Financial markets are an inescapable part of the modern world but remain poorly understood. How to Build a Stock Exchange sets out to answer these questions by way of a journey through the histories and narratives of finance, combining meticulous historical-sociological research with anecdotes, reflections on the narratives and ideologies of finance and the author’s autobiographical reminiscences. The book takes the stock exchange both as an institution in its own right and as a rhetorical figure to explore finance more broadly. It focuses on the material and technological drivers of the markets, as well as the social relationships and rituals that keep markets functioning. It identifies exchanges as embedded in specific historical and political trajectories, showing the mutually constitutive relationship of modern nation states and financial markets. It shows how financial institutions are equally constituted by narratives, which work to set rules of participation, identity and conduct. Most of all, it makes the case that stock exchanges – and the other institutions of finance - are products of chance and circumstance. Finance, it argues, is a social technology, a reflection of its makers. While the stock exchange as we know it is central to so many contemporary global problems, it is not, the book suggests, entirely beyond change.

HOW TO BUILD A STOCK EXCHANGE

“A rare phenomenon – succeeds in both demystifying an object with a technical and arcane history and being a genuine delight to read. It is an authoritative account that demonstrates exactly why stock markets should not be left to financiers and economists.”

Liz Mcfall, University of Edinburgh

“A superbly written and urgent book which makes complex issues lucid. If you want to enjoy finding out how we got to where we are now, and what’s wrong with our financial system, read Roscoe.”

Martin Parker, University of Bristol

“Much in the way that the early Methodists pondered why it was that the Devil had all the best tunes, before using this as inspiration for writing toe-tapping hymns, Philip Roscoe, in this excellent and entertaining book, seeks to develop a counter-narrative to the stories that have been produced by and about the financial system. These stories give it a power and authority way above its station and that have been proved to be both damaging and destructive. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including from his pre-academic career in the foothills of the financial system, Roscoe tells alternative stories of finance to emphasize how its institutions are all too human inventions that are highly fallible but also open to reinvention, if only we make sufficient effort to understand them and, importantly, to think carefully about ways in which they might be rebuilt.”

Andrew Leyshon, University of Nottingham

HOW TO BUILD A STOCK EXCHANGE

The Past, Present and Future of Finance

Philip Roscoe

First published in Great Britain in 2023 by

Bristol University Press

University of Bristol

1–9 Old Park Hill

Bristol

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© Bristol University Press 2023

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-5292-2431-3 hardcover

ISBN 978-1-5292-2432-0 paperback

ISBN 978-1-5292-2433-7 ePub

ISBN 978-1-5292-2434-4 ePdf

The right of Philip Roscoe to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved: no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Bristol University Press.

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The statements and opinions contained within this publication are solely those of the author and not of the University of Bristol or Bristol University Press. The University of Bristol and Bristol University Press disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any material published in this publication.

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Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

To Jane, with love

Contents

  • Acknowledgements viii

  1. Prologue A Bad Kind of Magic? 1

  2. 1Why We Should Care about Finance 11
  3. PART IHow the Markets Became
    1. 2From Future Pigs to Present Prices, a Chicago Story 23
    2. 3King William’s Overdraft 33
    3. 4Mind Your Eye! 43
    4. 5God Bless Margaret Thatcher 53
  4. PART IIThe Spectacular Science of Money
    1. 6Finding Prices, Making Prices 65
    2. 7Where Real Men Make Real Money 76
    3. 8Wires! Shocks! Sausages! 87
  5. PART IIIOpportunity Lost
    1. 9Other People’s Money 101
    2. 10Fear and Loathing on Wall Street 112
    3. 11The Burden of Empire 122
    4. 12Extractive Industries 132
  6. PART IVFinancial Futures
    1. 13Finance Takes Flight 145
    2. 14The Temples of Capitalism 156
  7. Epilogue The Market Replies 167

Acknowledgements

This book has been written at a strange time, in a world locked down then emerging into war and crisis. Writing a book is never easy, but it is even more difficult under such circumstances, and thanks are even more heartfelt. Several of the people named below I have never met, yet I have come to depend on them in ways I would never have expected.

Let me start with Paul Stevens, my editor at Bristol University Press. This book would not have come to be without his encouragement and support. I thank him and his colleagues, especially Kathryn King, Georgina Bolwell, Ruth Wallace and Emma Cook, who have helped along the way. I have benefited enormously from the thoughts of Shona Russell and François-Régis Puyou, who read the full draft and generously commented, as well as the comments from the Press’ anonymous readers. I thank my colleagues and friends at St Andrews, across the university, for providing a sustaining environment where a project like this can still happen.

The book began life as a podcast, and this endeavour – far more arduous than I had anticipated – was supported by a wide community of scholars and colleagues, especially Susi Geiger, Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, Andrea Lagna, Yuval Millo, Daniel Beunza, Toby Bennett, Kristian Bondo Hansen. Heidi Moore and Aditya Chakrabortty helped give the podcast some Twitter daylight. Everyone who tweeted: without your kind words and constant retweeting, I probably would have abandoned the project.

Here also, I would like to thank my JCE colleagues for their support and encouragement – Liz McFall, Carolyn Harding, Taylor Nelms and Jose Ossandon especially. Long may the WhatsApp group keep buzzing! The book’s title came from Chris Wellbelove; there is something mischievous about writing a ‘how to’ book that never says how to. Thank you.

The project that forms the core of the narrative, a history of London’s small company stock exchanges, was generously supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship. I am grateful to the Trust and to my interviewees, who gave me their time, memories, documents and photographs, and especially to my friend David Coffman, who opened doors and made introductions, and the Jenkins family, without whose support the project would never have succeeded.

I thank you all, and the community of scholars on whose shoulders this book stands. Errors and omissions are mine alone.

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