First credit crunch traced back to Roman republic

Mark Brown, arts correspondent

Politicians searching for historical precedents for the current financial turmoil should start looking a bit further back after an Oxford University historian discovered what he believes is the world’s first credit crunch in 88BC.

The good news is that Philip Kay knows how the Romans got themselves into financial bother. The bad news is no one knows how they got themselves out of it.

“The essential similarity between what happened 21 centuries ago and what is happening in today’s UK economy is that a massive increase in monetary liquidity culminated with problems in another country causing a credit crisis at home. In both cases distance and over-optimism obscured the risk,” said Kay, a supernumerary fellow at Wolfson College.

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