Europe: Early Modern and Modern 301 sent wider trends—such as the extent to which married AMY M. FROIDE. Silent Partners: Women as Public Inves- women, notwithstanding the legal conventions of cover- tors during Britain’s Financial Revolution, 1690–1750. ture, invested both for themselves and as portfolio man- New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. vi, 225. agers for their families, or the value of investments as a $90.00. source of support for middling and genteel women in “re- Silent Partners: Women as Public Investors during Britain’s tirement” and during old age. The range of investment Financial Revolution, 1690–1750, restores women to the strategies pursued by different women with varying prior- history of ﬁnancial capitalism in Britain at a moment of ities and resources inevitably produced a spectrum of decisive change. Although the activities of women inves- approaches to risk; the stereotype of a “risk-averse” fe- tors have been noted in passing by historians of the male investor is unsustainable in the face of the breadth Financial Revolution (and often rather condescendingly of experience presented here. Women’s credit relations dismissed), or partially explored through particular case also generated risk for others. Women were among those studies (most notably the South Sea Bubble of 1720), this who committed fraud, forgery, and theft rather than is the ﬁrst comprehensive study of women’s investment merely comprising their victims. activities from the early stages of England’s Financial Therefore, for all its recovery of the rich variety of Revolution until the mid-eighteenth century. It also rep- women’s economic agency, this is not a triumphalist ac- resents a welcome addition to the history of women’s count. Froide remains alert to the constraints that women lending activities, bridging the gap between work that has in varying circumstances might have faced on account of focused on the lending practices of early modern single their gender, and is also mindful that women signed up women in the seventeenth century, on the one hand, and for the ugly and rapacious dimensions of capitalist expan- the “gentlewomanly capitalism” that was intrinsic to Brit- sion with alacrity similar to that shown by men, taking ad- ish economic expansion in the nineteenth century, on the vantage of others’ misfortune as well as (on occasion) de- other hand. Exploring two generations of women’s contri- liberately pursuing fraudulent or illegal practices in order butions to a period of rapid capitalist development that to turn a proﬁt. But what this book does show is the sig- underpinned British colonial and imperial projects as niﬁcance of women’s investment both for their own or well as economic growth, this book demonstrates conclu- their families’ security and also for the ﬁnancing of Brit- sively that the history of capitalism is problematically par- ain’s imperial expansion and growing global signiﬁcance tial when it neglects women’s economic agency. over the course of the eighteenth century. For some The author traces the proportion of women investors women, this “ﬁnancial patriotism” translated into politi- to all investors, the wide range of women’s investments, cal agency, both ideological and practical. Some invest- and women investors’ varied social backgrounds in order ment strategies were clearly understood in terms of ser- to show that women were instrumental in the world of vice to the nation. More pragmatically, in some corpora- early ﬁnance. In doing so, Amy M. Froide usefully busts tions (such as the South Sea Company and the Mine several myths—for example, that women had restricted Adventurers Company) women’s capital secured voting access to investment opportunities owing to their lack of rights in company elections and direct involvement in expertise or to the operation of restrictive marital prop- company policy. erty law; that they were merely “passive” investors; or Silent Partners demonstrates the value of restoring that they were more risk averse than were men. Female women to histories of social and economic change. creditors were present in modest proportions from the Rather than beginning with the question of what impact beginning of the Financial Revolution, and comprised social and economic trends had on women, Froide has in- 10–20 percent of public investors by the turn of the eigh- stead explored how women have been integral and deci- teenth century (10). Even higher proportions of women sive contributors to social and economic change. She has (up to one-third) featured among investors in state lotter- developed a sensitively balanced approach that takes fe- ies, loans, and annuities, and women were also active in- male agency as its starting point without underestimating vestors in corporations, representing a quarter of inves- the consequences for women of patriarchal constraints, tors in many companies by the mid-eighteenth century and that balances the particularities of a very wide range (10–11). A vibrant and expanding print culture existed to of experiences with the generalizations about women’s serve women investors, providing easily accessible lists of lives and historical signiﬁcance that remain possible and stocks and securities, and producing “pocket-books” de- indeed necessary. signed for women to keep track of their accounts and in- ALEXANDRA SHEPARD vestments. Women were presented with, and they made University of Glasgow use of, plenty of opportunities to undertake informed in- vestment strategies. TIM HITCHCOCK and ROBERT SHOEMAKER. London Lives: By attending to differences of social status and marital Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690– status, Froide presents a variegated picture of women’s ﬁ- 1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. nancial activity rather than assuming that gender dictated xvi, 461. $32.99. either a uniform or limited set of options for women. The analysis proceeds via a series of case studies that have The title London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of been exhaustively researched and sensitively placed a Modern City, 1690–1800, was clearly chosen for its con- within broader contexts in order to show how they repre- nection to the London Lives website. It emerges as part AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW FEBRUARY 2018 Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article-abstract/123/1/301/4840375 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
The American Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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