Essays in speculation and trade in the long nineteenth century

  • Laura Wurm

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis addresses trade, commercial relations, speculation, and market regulation in the long nineteenth century, across Great Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, South America, and Spain. These markets, at the time, formed influential empires, with complex trade flows, and fruitful opportunities for investment, attracting merchants, traders, and speculators. Realms of speculative activity developed, leading to economic cycles involving the formation and bursting of bubbles. Speculative markets were also shaped by governments, striving for control over the forces that were driving trade. Speculation involved great certainty about the potential of investments, but also uncertainty – both tendencies were communicated and reflected in the press and narratives of the time. This thesis is divided into three chapters, which examine different aspects of, and nations involved in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century speculation and trade. In Chapter 1, I elaborate a chronology of bubbly episodes in nineteenth- and early twentieth century Great Britain using the press and study their causes and consequences. Chapter 2 examines the effect of a 1903 futures trading ban in the Viennese grain market on spot price volatility. In Chapter 3, I study the motives behind the British invasions of the Spanish-held Viceroyalty of the River Plate in 1806 and 1807, and their effects on trade. Together, the three chapters demonstrate the particularities and challenges of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century markets, showing how global superpowers of the time shaped commercial relations, perceived and dealt with speculation, and engaged in local as well as cross-border trade.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsThe SPaRK Programme
SupervisorClive Walker (Supervisor) & John Turner (Supervisor)


  • 19th-century markets
  • futures trading ban
  • bubbles
  • commodity trading
  • regime change
  • narrative finance
  • critical discourse analysis

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