Our present laws attacking conflict of interest and corruption came into existence during years of blistering financial and political corruption scandals in early Hanoverian England, notably the 1720 South Sea Bubble. But there was also a lot corruption surrounding war finance and the buying of offices and elections. Were the anti-corruption laws made in the 1720s a clean-up effort in the wake of breakdown and crisis?
If political-legal change worked like that today, we would by now have a highly regulated financial industry in the United Kingdom and highly honest and ethical politicians and political media. In the early 18th century, and perhaps in all times in British legal history, crisis might be a trigger for legal reform, but the reform process was always played out on a wider canvas of domestic politics, religious conflict, international affairs, and personal rivalries within an elite.
In this lecture I tell the story of conflicts in the realm of politics, finance and family life in the early reign of the Hanoverians, looking at a colourful caste of characters including many miscreants from Oxford.
Professor Joshua Getzler is Professor of Law and Legal History at St Hugh’s College. His book A History of Water Rights at Common Law (Oxford, 2004) won the Peter Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship in 2005. He is interested in modern property and commercial law, and the interconnections of legal, financial, political, religious and economic history.