Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin teaches history at Harvard and is the author of The Meddlers: Sovereignty, Empire and the Birth of Global Economic Governance.

Kettle of Vultures: A History of Interest

Jamie Martin, 16 November 2023

The earliest known​ interest-bearing debt is recorded on a 4500-year-old clay cone from southern Iraq. Its cuneiform inscription narrates a border dispute between two ancient Sumerian cities, Umma and Lagash, over control of a fertile plain and a debt in barley that the former owed to the latter. Unable to repay the debt, which had grown to astronomical proportions, Umma’s ruler...

For the​ last thirty years or more, there has been wide agreement that politics and sound monetary policy are incompatible. If politicians control the money supply, the thinking goes, then every time an election comes around they will risk inflation by goosing the economy with easy money in order to buy support from the voters. Price stability requires long-term thinking; but the public...

Nudged: Nudge Theory

Jamie Martin, 27 July 2017

In​ 1975, as Henry Kissinger was trying to negotiate a settlement to the Arab-Israeli War, he warned the Israeli government that a breakdown in the talks would bring catastrophe to the Middle East. The Israeli minister of foreign affairs, Yigan Allon, doubted this and convened a group of experts to investigate. It was led by Zvi Lanir, a political scientist and official at the Israeli...

Just Be Grateful: Unequal Britain

Jamie Martin, 23 April 2015

There are​ two standard views of the relationship between poverty and inequality. The first is that there isn’t one: how the poor fare has nothing to do with how much better off the rich are. What determines their well-being is growth, not distribution. If the pie is getting bigger, what matters isn’t the way it’s divided up, but that everyone will have more to eat....

Shortly after​ ten o’clock on the morning of Friday, 31 July 1914, less than an hour before trading was scheduled to begin, the London Stock Exchange closed its doors to business for the first time since its establishment in 1801. Crowds of brokers gathered in the narrow streets outside the building, many already wearing straw hats and holiday clothes instead of the traditional silk...

Habits of Empire: Financial Imperialism

David Priestland, 27 July 2023

As Western investors became controlling shareholders in the railways, mines and plantations of the global South, the supposedly peaceful worlds of trade and finance became harder to distinguish from imperialism....

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