I was looking at a paper published in the Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, and I found this passage:

"[The South Sea Company's] first act happened to be the successful conversion of 9 million pounds of government debt into company stock. For this service the government undertook to pay interest at 6%.""

This left me a little puzzled: just what was the government paying 6% on, if its bonds had been converted to South Sea Company stock? I wrote a friend who is an expert on the history of money and banking, and he agreed that the passage is confusing, and said, "The Wikipedia entry on the South Sea Company is better."

So, between a peer-reviewed book from Cambridge and Wikipedia... Wikipedia wins!

And high school teachers are still advising their students never to use it.



  1. I had a similar experience recently. I was reading Joseph Ellis' new book, and several of the dates didn't add up (e.g. it said that something happened in 1747 and then something else happened "eight years later, in 1757.) I looked up the right answer on Wikipedia. Ellis, of course, is one of the most prominent historians of the American Founding period.


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