Primary Source

Section of "The Bubbles of Finance"


Malcolm Ronald Laing Meason was a famous journalist and book author. As a respected authority on trade and finance, he possessed insider knowledge that journalists of articles like “Islam on the Ebb” did not. In 1865 he witnessed the Levantine companies becoming wealthy from trading in futures. In his book, The Bubbles of Finance, he marveled that the uniqueness of Levantine business methods was responsible for these family companies’ success. This source is a part of the The Forgotten Beirut-based Companies in the Global History of Capitalism teaching module.


For a purely English house to carry on transactions of such magnitude would have been a simple impossibility. English merchants have still some old-fashioned notions about not drawing or accepting bills, unless the said bills really represent some veritable commercial transaction between the drawer and the drawee. Thus, if Messrs. Jones Brothers, of Amsterdam, so many bales of goods, it is quite legitimate that the former firm should draw on the latter for the amount against the goods. It is also quite according to rule, that when Messrs. Smith’s draft on their correspondent is accepted, they should sell or discount the same, which at maturity will be paid by Messrs. Jones. But is was not until the Greeks- or rather what is called the Levant trade-took to trafficking in bills which had really nothing whatever behind them in the way of money or capital, that a regular and large profit began to be made out of this kind of paper.


Meason, Malcolm R.L. 1865. The Bubbles of Finance: Joint Stock Companies, Promoting of Companies, Modern Commerce, Money Lending, and Life Insuring . London: S. Low, Son, and Marston, 163.

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"Section of "The Bubbles of Finance"," in World History Commons, [accessed December 7, 2021]