RISK AND REPUTATION:
INSECURITY IN THE EARLY AMERICAN ECONOMY
Second Conference of the Program in Early American Economy and Society
At the Library Company of Philadelphia
1314 Locust Street Friday, October 4, 2002
For two generations following the American Revolution, citizens looked upon their new nation's economy with anticipation and hope. Many believed that foreign nations' doubts and the crushing state and individual debts in the wake of the Revolution would vanish in the midst of new commercial and manufacturing opportunities. But in a world still based more on good personal reputation than on secure institutions to regulate behavior and promote development, risk and uncertainty remained high. Dependence on foreign markets, unpredictable price swings, periodic scarcities or gluts of goods, personal miscalculations or outright deceit, and even bad weather persisted in the early republic without many safeguards against them.
At first, responses to the increasingly competitive economy echoed very old practices. Would-be market participants -- merchants, craftsmen, professionals, farmers -- cemented kinship networks, double-checked rumor, and demanded reliable reputations of their business associates. But slowly, Americans put into place the newspapers, credit ratings agencies, insurance and brokerage companies, and other mechanisms that would help mitigate some of the blows experienced by thousands of small investors in the early republic. Banks began to proliferate; in time, laws, court decisions, and new business institutions would, to an important extent, reduce entrepreneurial risks, safeguard reputation, and invite the creation of myriad new enterprises.
This one-day conference will showcase important new work about these themes. Presenters and commenters include Glenn Crothers, Edward Balleisen, Joe Rainer, Matthew Mulcahy, Toby Ditz, Bruce Mann, Brian Lusky, and Jane Kamensky. They will explore areas of the early American economy where entrepreneurs, planters, or manufacturers took especially high risks on a regular basis and created hedges to protect their ways of life, and the wider consequences for America's economic culture overall.
"Risk and Reputation" is free and open to everyone interested in its themes. The full conference program will be available soon, and precirculated papers will appear September, 2002 on the website of the Program in Early American Economy and Society, at: www.librarycompany.org. We urge you to let us know in advance if you will attend the conference; a pre-registration page may be found on the website and returned electronically. For questions and comments, please contact Cathy Matson, PEAES Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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