GEM: Literature and Speculation

Pieter Langendijk’s Quincampoix of de Windhandelaars (Quincampoix or the Wind Traders; Amsterdam, 1720) is aspeculators comedy about the impact of Europe’s biggest speculation crisis of the 18th century (the so-called South Sea Bubble) on the merchants in Amsterdam. The comedy’s first and third act are situated at the huisgezin (family household) of a speculating Amsterdam merchant called Bonaventuur (good adventure), his wife Beatris, his daughter Hillegond, and his office boy Pieter. Beatris, Hillegond and Pieter acquire and adopt knowledge about the dangers of new forms of trade in order to restore the socio-economic order within the family household and to prevent financial ruin. In the family’s power structure this knowledge is an important weapon in the hands of its members, especially so in the case of the mother and daughter. Since they know what is going on in the world outside the family household, they can act to exclude from the family any suspect ideas about property as well as suspicious people related to these ideas. Knowledge about the foundations of the speculation crisis is considered by the minor characters as a weapon against these suspect ideas. ‘De grond dient eens gepeild, / Van al het werk’ (‘We have to find out what the foundation is / Of all this business’), Hillegond concludes in the first act –  a respectable intention indeed, and we may wish for financial journalists who would act a bit more like 21st-century Hillegonds…

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