Edward Matthew Ward

The South Sea Bubble, a Scene in ‘Change Alley in 1720

1847, exhibited 1847

Edward Matthew Ward 1816–1879
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1295 × 1880 mm
frame: 1820 × 2410 × 170 mm
Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

Display caption

The South Sea Bubble was a brief period of wild financial speculation in Britain. It was centred on the fortunes of the South Sea Company, which shipped people from Africa to become enslaved labourers on plantations in Central and South America. British aristocrats and leading politicians were shareholders, which gave a legitimacy to the company and its slave trading activities. The shares were extremely popular and rose rapidly in value. Many other companies, some fraudulent, issued stock. When the stock market collapsed in 1720 a large number of people were financially ruined.

Gallery label, December 2019

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