Proposal preview

Banks and Capital Markets: Engines of Growth or Societal Destabilizers?

By the 1990s economists had reached a consensus about the relationship between finance and growth: finance was good for economic growth. However, since the 2008 global financial crises, finance has been increasingly viewed as a societal destabilizer because of its role in creating bubbles, prolonging the Great Recession, contributing to the rise in inequality, and sparking the rise of populism. There is therefore a public debate about the benefits of finance to society. Is there simply too much finance?

The study of the historical development of banks and capital markets across the globe has an important role to play in informing these debates. This session will examine the evolution of banks and capital markets over the past three centuries to understand the role of finance as either an engine of economic growth, a destabilizer of economies and societies, or both. The five main questions to be addressed are: (a) What were the underlying causes of historical financial booms and busts, what were their effects and how were these ameliorated?; (b) What roles have central banks played in the development of banking and capital markets and in responding to financial instability?; (c) How have law and regulation limited the excesses of banks and capital markets–or contributed to them?; (d) How large were historical financial systems and how did they contribute to economic growth? (e) How have historical financial systems been shaped and affected by financial elites, special interests and the needs of government?

The session will address whether historical financial systems have been engines of growth or destabilizers by examining a broad range of economies and time periods. In addressing the above questions, this session will provide insights into the modern debate among economists, policymakers and wider society about the size and shape of the financial system.


  • Chris L Colvin, Queen's University Belfast,, Northern Ireland
  • Richard S Grossman, Wesleyan University,, USA
  • John D Turner, Queen's University Belfast,, Northern Ireland

Session members

  • Carsten Burhop, Bonn University,
  • Marc Deloof, University of Antwerp,
  • Matt Jaremski, Colgate University,
  • Ronan Lyons, Trinity College Dublin,
  • John Tang, Australian National University,
  • Maylis Avaro, Graduate Institute Geneva,
  • Meeghan Rogers, State University of New York,
  • Philip T Fliers , Utrecht University,
  • Eric Hilt, Wellesley College,
  • Yuheng Zhao, Boston University,
  • Gareth Campbell, Queen's University Belfast,

Proposed discussant(s)

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