Anthropologists in the Stock ExchangeA Financial History of Victorian Science

Anthropologists in the Stock ExchangeA Financial History of Victorian Science

Marc Flandreau

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226360300

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Starting with the discovery of a curious plot in which science became the handmaiden of white-collar crime, this book tracks a group of Victorian gentlemen-swindlers as they shuffled between the corridors of the London Stock Exchange and the meeting rooms of learned societies. It explores what the author calls “the stock exchange modality:” how the production of scientific truth became every bit as integral as financial engineering to investment and speculation in foreign government debt. This book underscores the crucial role of finance in shaping the contours of human knowledge and vice versa in an age of mercantile expansion. It argues that finance and science were at the heart of that new brand of imperialism, born under Benjamin Disraeli’s first term as Britain’s prime minister. This new imperialism built on the multiple covert links between the birth of social sciences and novel mechanisms of financial revenue creation and extraction. As anthropologists advocated the study of Miskito Indians or stated their views on a Jamaican Rebellion or Abyssinian Expedition, they responded and catered to the impulses of the Stock Exchange. The marriage between anthropological science and finance produced essential technologies of globalization, and formed the foundational structures of late nineteenth century British imperialism