April 19, 2017
Abigail Swingen, an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Texas Tech University Department of History, has received a $6,000 summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to study Britain’s economic history.
The NEH, an independent federal agency created in 1965, is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.
Swingen’s project, “The Financial Revolution and the British Empire in the 17th and 18th Centuries,” is an exploration of how and why Britain developed into a financial capitalist economy during the early modern period. It investigates the long-term origins and consequences of Britain’s Financial Revolution, which included the creation of the national debt and public credit on the part of the British government to help raise revenue to pay for expensive military endeavors at the turn of the 18th century.
“The major contribution of ‘The Financial Revolution and the British Empire in the 17th and 18th Centuries’ will be the connections it makes between economic transformations and developments related to Britain’s early modern empire,” Swingen said. “For example, the development of overseas trading companies as investment opportunities, such as the East India Company, the Royal African Company and the South Sea Company, was intimately connected to imperial expansion, overseas trade and colonial settlement. This indicated a level of understanding of a world beyond London on the part of investors.”
During the 17th century, Britain experienced profound social, economic and political transformations in terms of agricultural production, manufacturing, overseas trade and colonization as well as new and more extensive forms of taxation by the state, which changed how people interacted with the broader economy.
“These transformations laid important foundations for later developments in banking, investment and finance,” Swingen said. “The book will consider these changes, as well as the intellectual shifts that were necessary for contemporaries to understand, accept or reject these transformations.”
Swingen will use her stipend to support a research trip to London this summer, where she will work in the National Archives, focusing on government treasury papers from the 1660s through the 1730s.
“A grant from the NEH is an amazing opportunity for me as a historian,” she said. “In terms of my plans this summer, the sources I will consult at the National Archives are not digitized or calendared in any form, and therefore the only way I can read them is in the archive. The ability to regularly conduct research in archives overseas is absolutely necessary for me as a historian of Europe, but sadly there are fewer and fewer sources of outside funding available. The NEH Summer Stipend program remains one of these few sources that can be used in a variety of different ways by scholars of the humanities in terms of research and writing.”
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