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18th Century Season - Liquid Assets: Tracing Handel's Thousands

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 12 April 2009

Peter Day, BBC Business Correspondent looks at Handel's extraordinary success on the stock market and looks into financial matters involved in putting on operas and oratorios in eighteenth century London.

Handel speculated in the newly formed London stock market throughout his life in the capital. Strikingly, he put money into South Sea stock in 1716 when prices were low and had sold up by 1720 when the South Sea credit bubble burst in one of the great financial cataclysms in fiscal history. Many others lost fortunes, including Sir Isaac Newton, warden of the Royal Mint. Handel profited handsomely and, while others shied away from the uncertainties of speculation, he continued to invest throughout his life. From 1744 Handel's investments just grew and grew.

Talking to Handel experts and financial historians, Peter Day enters the tough economics of eighteenth century music making and visits the Bank of England to see Handel's extravagant signature on numerous ledgers as he traded annuities.

First broadcast in April 2009.

  • Handel Ledger

    Handel Ledger

    A ledger showing Handel's financial transactions in the Bank of England.

  • Bank of England Archives

    Bank of England Archives

    Bank of England archivist John Keyworth with one of Handel's ledgers.

  • The Bank of England

    The Bank of England

    Sampson's engraving of the Bank of England as it would have looked during Handel's lifetime.

    Image reproduced with permission of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England.


Paul Frankl


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