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“The Paper Age”

“The Paper Age”

(p.153) Interchapter one “The Paper Age”
Genres of the Credit Economy
Mary Poovey
University of Chicago Press

This interchapter, which provides a transition from the eighteenth-century materials to their nineteenth-century counterparts, discusses the dramatic increases in the volume of bank paper and book paper that occurred in turn-of-the-century Britain. While these increases occurred almost at the same time, they were different in significant ways: they were not caused by the same factors, and they did not take homologous forms. The writing that functioned as money proliferated as a direct consequence of the 1797 Restriction Act, for, by curtailing the obligation of the Bank of England to redeem its notes with gold, this legislation indirectly encouraged the formation of country banks and the issue of provincial paper. Writing about money was provoked by this legislation as well, both because the Restriction rendered the fictitious nature of all paper money visible and because, as the value of paper money rose and fell, contemporaries were driven to speculate about its merits. Thus, the 1797 act, as well as the 1810 Bullion, immediately incited more writing of a theoretical kind, as a consequence of the written legislation that inaugurated the Restriction in the first place.

Keywords:   bank paper, book paper, writing, 1797 Restriction Act, 1810 Bullion

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