An Invisible Revolution
The relevance to the present day of the original financial revolution is too little understood
Everyone knows at least a little about the history of the of scientific revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the industrial revolutions, of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and the democratic revolutions of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Very few are familiar with the major details of the financial revolution of the early eighteenth century, which began with the reforms of England’s “Glorious revolution” of 1688. In the course of the next sixty years, these developments brought into existence the modern military-industrial complex.
This relative obscurity of these long-ago events is not surprising, for, as best I can tell, the term had no currency before Peter G.M Dickson in 1967 published The Financial Revolution in England: A Study of the Development of Public Credit, 1688-1756. Until then, the power to spend public money was colloquially described as “the control of the purse.”
It is, however, something of a shame, since what we now call “the national debt” these days is the engine that powers military interventions around the world, from the misadventures of the George W, Bush administrations forays in Afghanistan and Iraq to Vladimir Putin’s quagmire plunge in Ukraine. You can’t fathom those periodic $60 billion appropriations bills without knowing something about the enormous multinational purse that supports NATO.
Instead, our understanding of these matters depends on combinations of vignettes and modern analysis, a sauce that often doesn’t come together.