“Bad Bicentennial: Reflections on the Panic of 1819” with Providence College Prof. Sharon Ann Murphy


To ring in the 200th anniversary of the United States’ first major economic crisis, Providence College Professor of History Sharon Ann Murphy will examine the effects of the Panic of 1819, which rippled throughout the American population, as well as its implications for 19th-century economic history (see abstract below). Prof. Murphy’s talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place on October 18, at 3:30pm in Jesse Hall 410. The talk is part of our “Pursuit of Happiness Hour” Friday Colloquium Series, made possible with the support of Logboat Brewing Co.


America’s first major economic crisis touched all aspects of the economy and affected—either directly or indirectly—almost the entire American population. For many people, the Panic of 1819 was evidence that the entire banking system was flawed. Critics noted the instability of using banknotes and fretted over the potential problems with placing too much power in the hands of a few financial institutions, especially the Second Bank of the United States. What Americans at the time did not and could not know was that panics and depressions would follow periods of rapid economic growth throughout the nineteenth century.


A historian of 19th century institutions, Sharon Ann Murphy received her Ph.D. from University of Virginia and currently serves as Professor of History at Providence College. She is the author of a number of books, including Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America (Johns Hopkins University Press), which won the 2012 Hagley Prize for best book in business history, and most recently, Other People’s Money: How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic (Johns Hopkins University Press). She has published scholarship in Journal of the Early Republic and Business History Review, among many other places, and her current book project examines the relationship between banks and slavery, and particularly the use of enslaved people as a loan collateral, in the antebellum period and across the South.