What is a financial crisis?

Perceptions, memories, analyses in a long-run historical perspective


17-18 June 2024, Vera Anstey Room, Old Building, LSE

The recent collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank and the takeover of banking giant Credit Suisse by UBS, ‘orchestrated’ by the Swiss financial and monetary authorities, have again raised the spectre of financial crises. But should these events be considered as a financial crisis, the prelude of a financial crisis, or a financial turbulence? What do they have in common with such shocks as the Baring Crisis of 1890, the crisis of Crédit Lyonnais in 1994, or the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998? And how do we compare the failure of a large financial institutions with crises threatening the collapse of the financial system, such as the Great Depression, the International Debt Crisis of 1982, or the Global Financial Crisis of 2008?  

There are different types of financial crisis (banking crises, stock market crises, currency crises, sovereign defaults) each with different degrees of intensity. But how should we judge and measure this intensity? ‘Objectively’, through quantitative measures designed by economists? Or ‘subjectively’, through the ways financial crises have been experienced by financial actors and remembered and narrated by later generations? Can the two approaches be combined? Which one is more likely to determine the behaviour of financial actors faced with growing financial instability and the risk of a financial crisis?  

By asking the question ‘what is a financial crisis?’, this conference aims to open a discussion on the various definitions, understandings, analyses, narratives, and memories of financial crises from various disciplinary viewpoints (history, economics, politics, sociology, law) as well as professional perspectives (academics, regulators, financial actors, politicians, journalists).  

The conference will take a long-term historical perspective, from the mid-nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. It will consider both case studies and more general pieces, either concerned with financial crises taking place in advanced or emerging economies or with the interactions between financial shocks in emerging economies and their effects in advanced economies. 

This conference is organised within the framework of the ERC funded project The Memory of Financial Crises: Financial Actors and Global Risk - MERCATOR, directed by Professor Youssef Cassis.

UPDATE: 24th June 2024:  Our keynote speaker, Gillian Tett, was published in the Financial Times with her thoughts on the conference.  You can read more here  (LSE staff and students have free access through the library, but others will need to pay for a subscription)

Conference organisers

Scientific committee: Professor Youssef Cassis (LSE, Robert Schuman Center, EUI), Professor Olivier Accominotti (LSE), Dr Sabine Schneider (LSE), Dr Niccolò Valmori (LSE, Robert Schuman Center, EUI).

Organising committee: Tracy Keefe ( and Kamilah Hassan (

There are likely to be limited spaces that we can offer to non-presenters.  If you would like to be considered, please complete this form.

Call for Papers

Interested scholars interested are invited to submit a paper abstract of no more than 350 words, along with a short CV (250 words), to the conference organisers by 31st October 2023. The short CV and paper abstract should be uploaded here.  

Decisions about the acceptance of papers will be communicated by 6 December 2023. Submission of full papers is expected by 31 March 2024.

The organisers will offer lunches, dinners, and coffee breaks to all participants. Limited funds are available for travel and accommodation expenses, which participants are expected to cover through their own institution. 

Workshop Programme

17th June

09:00-09:10:      Welcome: Olivier Accominotti, Director, Financial History Group, LSE                             

09:10-09:20:      Introduction: Youssef Cassis, EUI and LSE

09:20-10:30       Winners and Losers:  Olivier Accominotti, LSE (Chair)                     

Elise Brezis (Bar-Ilan University): Do financial crises differ between periods of hegemony and power strugges? (full paper)

Youssef Cassis (EUI and LSE) and Bruno Pacchiotti (EUI): Financial actors and financial crises, 1980s-2020s (full paper)

10:30-11:00       Coffee break

11:00-12:45       The Long 19th century (Part 1): Niccolò Valmori, EUI and LSE (Chair)

Giuseppe De Luca (Milan), Sergio Sardone (Federico II Naples), Maria-Carmela Schisani (Federico II Naples): Italian financial crises and national loans in wartime (1866-1918). Narrative, institutional discourse and crisis perception (abstract)

Paolo Di Martino (Turin) and Marco Molteni (Geneva Graduate Institute and Oxford): Italian Crises: Memories, myths and realitities (abstract)

Miguel Angel Ortiz-Serrano (CUNEF Madrid) and Germàn Forero Laverde (U. Externado de Colombia): Can managers successfully deceive investors? Media attention and market manipulation during the Panama scandal (full paper)

12:45-14:15       Lunch 

14:15-16:00:      The Long 19th century (Part 2):  Sabine Schneider, LSE (Chair)           

Maite De Sola Perea (Antwerp), Ruben Peeters (Antwerp), Marc Deloof (Antwerp): The impact of the 1848 crisis on bank and traditional lending in Antwerp (full paper)

David Thomson (Sacred Heart University): 'A Disposition to Seize and Divide’: A Transatlantic Financial Panic over United States State Debt Default in the 1840s (full paper)

Tehreem Husain (LSE): 'Only a Whisper was Needed to Cause a Panic’: Agents and the Baring Crisis of 1890’ (abstract)

16:00-16:30       Coffee break

16:30-18:15       Global perceptions:  Youssef Cassis, EUI and LSE (Chair)                

Maximiliano Presa Palermo (Universidad de la República (Uruguay) & Universitat de València): Identification and characterisation of financial crises in Latin America: c.1870-2019 (full paper)

Tim Salzer (Giessen): Monetary Crisis and Economic Expertise in Republican China (1930s): A reconfiguration of knowledge hierarchies? (abstract)

Anne Booth (SOAS): The Asian Crisis: Three decades on (full paper)

20:00-22:30       Conference Dinner, invited participants only


18th June

10:00-11:10       The Great Depression (Part 1):  Giuseppe Telesca, EUI (Chair)

Patrice Baubeau (Paris Nanterre) and Angelo Riva (EBS, PSE): Memory and oblivion: how the past obliterated the 1929 crisis in France (full paper)

Ruben Peeters (Antwerp) and Amaury De Vicq (Groningen): Safe and Sound: Exploring the Dutch Quiet Banking Crisis of 1931 (abstract)

11:10-11:30       Coffee break

11:30-12:40       The Great Depression (Part 2): Jason Lennard, LSE (Chair)

Juan Flores Zendejas (Geneva) and Gianandrea Nodari (Geneva): Bail-in or bail-out? Revisiting the Credit Anstalt Crisis of 1931 (abstract)

Tobias Pforr (EUI) and Giuseppe Telesca (EUI): Evolving ‘collective memory’: The Glass-Steagall Act and varying interpretations of the Great Depression (abstract)

12:40-14.00       Lunch

14.00-15:20       Central banks: Albrecht Ritschl, LSE (Chair)

Kilian Rieder (Northwestern): Macroscoping the Historical Lender of Last Resort: A Transatlantic Perspective (full paper)

Mark Carlson (Federal Reserve): Motivations for policymaker interventions during banking stress episodes in the 1920s (full paper)

15:30-16:00       Coffee break

16:00-17:00       Keynote speech: Gillian Tett OBE (King's College, Cambridge)
                            Youssef Cassis, EUI and LSE (Chair)
                            Losing Credit: trust in a financial crisis

20:00-22:30       Conference Dinner, invited participants only

The project leading to this application has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 884910).

sponsor logos
Memory-of-financial-crisis-logo EU-logos