Speculative Enterprise: Public Finance and the London Theater, 1688-1763


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Following the 1688 Revolution Settlement, London’s financial system experienced a series of hotly debated changes, including the development of complex credit instruments, the growth of speculative investment, and the reminting of the silver coin. This dissertation exposes a previously unrecognized history of the London public theaters’ active participation in these debates. As a site of constant cultural recycling, the repertory theater adapted, revived, and reformed plays from previous generations, inviting audiences to connect past and present experiences of markets. In doing so, it complicated politicized narratives of rupture, from nostalgic visions of England’s past to uncritical celebrations of its fiscal modernity. Drawing on performance records, dramatic texts, and theatrical documents from moments of economic crisis, this project exposes the material and imaginative links Londoners of the period articulated between the playhouse and the stock exchange, and explores how those links enabled the theater to intervene in contemporary financial discourse.