Skip to main content

Early Career Researchers Grants

Lent 2022 Funding Results

The Roots of Finance: Infrastructure, Agriculture and Derivatives in the Gilded Age
Researcher: Dr David Pinzur
Derivative markets are the foremost contemporary mode of acting on @dispersed knowledge@ about the future. Through the mechanism of speculation, derivative markets aim to move prices in ways that account for what is coming weeks, months, or even years down the line. To better understand the workings of these markets, my research studies a significant divergence in their early history. In the years after the U.S. Civil War, two major commodity exchanges - the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and New Orleans Cotton Exchange (NOCE) - began trading a new and promising, yet little understood, financial instrument: agricultural futures contracts. Over the next 100 years their markets took wildly different paths. While the New Orleans market dissolved, Chicago established itself as the beating heart of the global derivatives trade. What led them to these opposite endpoints? I suggest that the answer to this question is not primarily about competition, regulation, or globalisation. Rather, it lies in differences in 'market infrastructures' - the backgrounded, largely invisible, technical devices, practices, and relations underlying futures trading on these new markets. In asking how the CBOT's and NOCE's derivative market infrastructures diverged, why, and with what consequences, my research investigates the sociotechnical ground upon which efforts to understand and prepare for the future are rooted.