Vol. 7: Kelly, Patrick.

Type: Article

Kelly, Patrick. ‘‘Industry and Virtue versus Luxury and Corruption’: Berkeley, Walpole, and the South Sea Bubble Crisis.’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 7 (1992), Pp 57-74.

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the word ‘bubble’ was used as a “term of opprobrium for delusive commercial or financial schemes”, and was applied, in particular, to the scheme for the conversion of the British national debt by the South Sea Company in 1720, which led to the first major stock-market crash in British history. Kelly discusses the South Sea Bubble Crisis, its significance to the “social and economic conditions of the inhabitants of Britain and its colonies in the early eighteenth century” and its importance to British political history. Kelly also looks at the personal and professional impact of the Bubble Crisis on two key figures active in British politics at the time, George Berkeley and Robert Walpole. As a result of the his skilful management of the aftermath of the crisis, Walpole attained the post of chief minister in Britain, which he occupied for two decades; his success led to “the complete triumph of a new and more thorough-going form of political corruption”. Berkeley, on the other hand wrote An Essay towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain (1721), “an attack on luxury both as an economic and as a political and moral evil”. Kelly discusses the effect of the South Sea Bubble Crisis, ton these two figures, and the events which led to Berkeley’s return to Ireland as Bishop of Cloyne in 1734.