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Politicizing Paper Money

Politicizing Paper Money

(p.171) Chapter Three Politicizing Paper Money
Genres of the Credit Economy
Mary Poovey
University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses one genre in which fiction continued to pose cultural problems even after it had become recognizable. This genre is paper money, whose cultural efficacy depended both on maintaining and on neutralizing the fictions that enabled it to pass current. Unlike the fiction associated with imaginative writing, in other words, the fictional quality of paper money always had the potential to reanimate the problematic of representation. The chapter is divided into two sections that correspond roughly to the two major monetary controversies of the first half of the nineteenth century. The first section addresses some of the debates that broke out during the Restriction period (1797–1819/21). Participants in these debates, both members of the establishment and various currency radicals, repeatedly flirted with the possibility that the paper money which proliferated in Britain's wartime economy could expose the problematic of representation. The second section turns to a series of writings produced in the wake of the Bank of England's restoration of payments and the passage, in 1826, 1833, and 1844, of three important pieces of legislation intended to strengthen the position of the Bank.

Keywords:   fiction, paper money, representation, Restriction period

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