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When John Law plied his financial wizardry in eighteenth century France, dissolving the national debt and creating fortunes for anyone who invested in his scheme, the rest of Europe looked on in envy. Known as the Mississippi Bubble, Law’s complex manipulations of shares and dividends would eventually destroy the entire banking system that he helped establish. In an effort to copy France’s early success, England created a similar scheme under the auspices of the South Sea Company. When both bubbles burst simultaneously, the ensuing financial disaster evaporated fortunes overnight and sparked bank runs. But, unlike the Royal Bank of France, the Bank of England had avoided entanglement with the speculative frenzy and was able to survive the onslaught. The contrast ensured that Great Britain, rather than France, would lead Europe’s drive toward global expansion and international trade.



Part IX: John Law’s Scheme to Catapult France to the Forefront