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Manuscript Mondays: John Law, the Mississippi Bubble and the Founding of New Orleans

Monday, August 7, 2023 – 8PM Eastern, Live Free Webinar

The Historic New Orleans Collection has built an extensive collection of materials related to John Law de Lauriston (1671–1729). Law was a Scottish gambler, banker, and monetary theorist. From 1717 to 1720 he attempted to eliminate France’s crippling national debt by creating a central bank that issued paper currency. The currency was exchangeable for shares of stock in the nascent Louisiana colony. That attempt, dubbed Law’s “System,” failed spectacularly. The result was the collapse of the Mississippi Bubble and bankruptcy for many in France’s investor class. However, it also enabled the founding of the city of New Orleans.

We’ll look at this period through the prism of The Historic New Orleans Collection’s (THNOC) holdings. We will highlight its two most recent additions. They provide a rare look at the final days of the bubble. One is a bound recueil (compendium) of documents related to Law’s banking system, the other a group of 19 arrêts (official state edicts) enacted between April and November of 1720, during the last eight months of the System’s existence.

Presenter: Howard Margot

A native New Orleanian and (approx.) 10th-generation Louisianan, Howard Margot is a curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) where he has worked since 2006. Educated in his home state and in France, he has enjoyed working with local French and Spanish manuscripts from his favorite century, the 18th, since 2001.

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