‘Confusions de Confusiones’ provides early record of stock exchange dealings

Meshal Muhammad

In “Confusions de Confusiones: Portions Descriptive of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange,” financial expert Joseph de la Vega writes about the inner dealings of a stock exchange.

With only 50 pages, this book is a great short read for those who enjoy learning about the history of financial markets and finance. Published in 1688, this first record of dealings at a stock exchange, that was founded in 1602, makes for a special read.

De la Vega includes accounts of the inner dealings of the stock exchange, including the different characters on the exchange floor, the history of the East India Tea Company and even the different types of speculators, investment products and techniques offered by the stock exchange at the time.

This book can also be a great resource for beginners in investing who are unfamiliar with terms such as “options” and “futures.”  For brokers, it also explains their role and responsibilities in the stock exchange in a relatable and simple manner, focusing only on core concepts.

The book contains four different dialogues between a shareholder, merchant and philosopher. The shareholder explains to the other two how the stock exchange works. Throughout the conversations, the merchant and philosopher bring up their queries and reservations that the shareholder attempts to address and answer.

The manner in which de la Vega describes Amsterdam in the 17th century is much like how one could describe the New York Stock Exchange today.

“If one were to lead a stranger through the streets of Amsterdam and ask him where he was, he would answer, ‘Among speculators,’ for there is no corner [in the city] where one does not talk shares,” de la Vega writes, as translated by Harvard University professor Hermann Kellenbenz.

In the fourth conversation, the merchant asks the shareholder to describe the events that lead up to a recent stock market crash. The shareholder responds by explaining how the market kept falling due to panic, rumors of a war and the spread of lost revenue throughout the stock exchange.

In time, the context around market crashes changed, bringing great losses and profits for investors, along with new regulations and standards. However, the crux of the market still holds.

Although much has changed with regard to market regulations and laws, so much remains the same still. Markets and exchanges have evolved, but investors and human behavior have proven to be consistent.

De la Vega’s account of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange — now known as Euronext Amsterdam— is one worth reading, not only because it’s the first, but also because it builds a foundation for the system that is present in global markets today.

Readers may purchase a copy wherever available or borrow one from their local library. They may even find an online copy made public.

Caryl Anne Francia