Abstract: Gold, Finance and Speculation: The making of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, 1887-1899

Mariusz Lukasiewicz


Despite its 130 years of history, no previous study has attempted to investigate the establishment and development of Africa’s oldest existing stock exchange as an integral aspect of 19th century financial capitalism. This paper provides a historical account and analysis of the origins, foundations and development of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) between its establishment in 1887 and its temporary closure at the outbreak of the South African War in 1899. Despite the emphasis on materialism prompting many debates about the growth of the gold industry and the outbreak of the South African War, surprisingly little research has focused on the financial institutions of South Africa’s gold industry. The development of the JSE is woven interchangeably with the history of Johannesburg’s gold industry, and the growth of the city as a crucial supplier of gold to global, and especially British, monetary systems at the height of the classical gold standard. The rise of the Exchange complements and enhances the exceptionalism of South Africa’s early financial history, creating an alternative capital market to London and numerous southern African exchanges. Following the early financial developments in Kimberley, Barberton, London, Paris and finally Johannesburg, this dissertation investigates the social, financial and economic connections between the rise of South Africa’s gold mining industry and its foremost financial institution during the first age of financial globalisation. The first twelve years of the JSE’s history not only coincide with the European colonisation of southern Africa, but more importantly, expose the active participation of certain members of the Exchange in the British imperial project. The financial intermediaries, products and various stakeholders of the JSE connect the Exchange to financial developments across southern Africa and Europe. Using neglected original documentation from the Exchange and partner financial intermediaries, this paper demonstrates the close personal alliances, inter-institutional discrepancies and legislative framework of the JSE in a dynamic study of Africa’s oldest and largest financial capital market.