Lady Betty Hastings, her half-sisters and the South Sea Bubble: family fortunes and strategies

Laurence, Anne (2006). Lady Betty Hastings, her half-sisters and the South Sea Bubble: family fortunes and strategies. Women's History Review, 15(4) pp. 533–540.



This paper is concerned with the ways in which Lady Betty Hastings (1682-1739) and her half-sisters managed their finances in the context of the financial revolution of the early eighteenth century. In particular, it is concerned with the involvement of the sisters in the South Sea Bubble and with the ways in which the Hastings sisters’ final dispositions of money and property reflected their sense of kin in different ways according to their situations. The richest of the sisters, Betty, was risk averse, the poorer of the sisters, Ann, Frances and Catherine, had less to lose and were more willing to risk what they had in the emerging financial market. Ann and Frances even borrowed money to buy shares. That their financial affairs are visible at all is because the women were not married. While these women were operating in a new financial dispensation, it is not clear whether the involvement of these women in their finances was genuinely different in spirit from what might have taken place a generation earlier. The correspondence on which this paper is based does challenge a feature of the financial revolution of which economists have made much, which is that credit relationships become anonymous in a larger market. It is absolutely clear here that, though the market may have been anonymous, the participation of individuals in it was mediated by close personal relationships.

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