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The University of Southampton
EconomicsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

0922 Archibald Hutcheson's Reputation as an Economic Thinker (H. Paul)

Discussion Paper 0922, "Archibald Hutcheson’s Reputation as an Economic Thinker: Pamphlets, the National Debt and the South Sea Bubble", by Helen Paul

Archibald Hutcheson MP was one of the few contemporaries who wrote about the South Sea Bubble in detailed financial terms. Many commentators simply blamed general causes such as greed, folly or ‘jobbing’. Hutcheson was at the centre of the enquiry into the 1720 crash. He has been lauded as a savant and unsung hero of the Bubble. His ideas have permeated the secondary literature of the episode. However, on closer inspection many of his economic ideas are incorrect. Later authors have only selected those statements which fitted with modern viewpoints. A broader selection of his statements in the House of Commons and political writings shows a different picture. Hutcheson was not a financier, but he was one of the first to try to make sense of the Bubble using financial arguments. His work gives great insight into the contemporary social and political context. Ironically, it is not particularly useful with regard to financial theory. This paper will use his writings to show his confused and contradictory approach to the stock market and its participants. Hutcheson struggled to understand the financial innovations and changing social structure which accompanied them. He was a participant in the stock market, but also part of the landed elite. The South Sea Bubble was one of the highpoints of his career. He reminded the public of this with a slew of pamphlets. There is a selection bias in the survival of ephemera from country house libraries. Hutcheson’s reputation is in need of revision.

Keynames: Financial Revolution, History of Economic Thought, South Sea Bubble

JEL Classification: N23, N43, B11

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