Handbook of Finance and Development
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Handbook of Finance and Development

Edited by Thorsten Beck and Ross Levine

This Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between financial and real sector development. The different chapters, written by leading contributors in the field, survey research on the importance of financial development for economic growth, the causes and consequences of financial fragility, the historic development of financial systems in several major economies and regions of the world, and the regulatory and supervisory underpinnings of financial sector development.
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Chapter 6: Finance and growth in the United Kingdom

Hans-Joachim Voth

Abstract

England's financial revolution in the eighteenth century has long been hailed as a key contributor to the world's first Industrial Revolution. Later, in the nineteenth century, roles change in standard narratives – finance turns from hero into villain, with Victorian economic “failure” a result of excessive financial development. This survey argues for the exact opposite. England's financial revolution was strictly limited to public finance, enabling an explosion of public borrowing that stifled economic activity in the century up to 1815. It was only afterwards that finance began to fulfill its promise, enabling the country's rise to become the undisputed workshop of the world by the 1850s. Finally, there is no evidence of Victorian failure through excessive capital exports. In sum, the English case eloquently demonstrates the risks of financial repression – and the vast benefits from repealing outdated rules and regulations.

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