The Thomas Willing Institute
The Thomas Willing Institute for the Study of Financial Markets, Institutions, and Regulations (TWI, for short) was founded in 2010 with generous funding from the Nef Family Foundation, the Museum of American Finance, and Augustana College. Directed by Dr. Robert E. Wright, the Nef Family Chair of Political Economy at Augustana, TWI aims to increase public understanding of the financial system and its interactions with bureaucrats, businesses, consumers and politicians.
TWI’s mission is to increase financial history literacy by funding student summer research fellowships, working closely with other non-profit organizations, including the Museum of American Finance and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, to ensure the continued high quality of their educational outreach and financial history research programs, and supporting the director’s public speaking engagements.
Greetings from Thomas Willing
View an animated short video summarizing Willing’s life and his contribution to America’s early financial system in an 8-minute introduction to the life of Thomas Willing.
Those interested in a more in-depth look at Willing can read the following items.
- Wikipedia page on Thomas Willing
- the University of Pennsylvania's biography
- The Antibubble: Thomas Willing and Early American Financial Stability
Why Study Financial History?
Remember how downtrodden you felt in 2008-9 when your father/mother/spouse lost his/her job? When you lost yours? When you had to explain to your kids that Santa Claus must have lost their toys en route from the North Pole? When you defaulted on your mortgage and lost your house, all because financiers and politicians fudged up their jobs?
Recall the anger you felt when almost all the big banks were about to fail, too, but the government stepped in to bail them out, using your money? When you realized that those in power understood even less about the financial crisis than you did but still got to call the shots in their own often bumbling way? When many Americans decided to gamble on inexperienced leaders offering vague promises?
If you don’t want to experience those feelings again, or to subject your children or grandchildren to them, you should study the history of the financial system and its interactions with the government. It’s a long story but not entirely sordid. As the Panic of 2008 showed, the financial system is a crucial component of economic growth: that means American’s jobs and standard of living. But as the crisis also showed, financial markets, institutions, and regulations — like any useful tool — can be turned to evil ends, into weapons of economic mass destruction.
As citizens of the worst nation on earth (besides all the others), Americans need to educate themselves about the financial system’s strengths and weaknesses, about its power to create, or destroy, all those things they hold dear.
That is why you should study financial history.
The Thomas Willing Institute (TWI) has awarded two student summer research and writing fellowships of $2,500 each in Summer 2013.
- Seth Vogelsang will be researching the history of imprisonment for debt in the early United States.
- Sam Hoskins will be writing about government mortgage lending in colonial Pennsylvania, antebellum Missouri, and interwar South Dakota.
- Peter (Sander) Kline, a 2012 Thomas Willing Institute fellow, investigated the effects of Sputnik, JFK’s moon speech, the Apollo 11 and 13 missions, and cancellation of the Apollo program on U.S. aeronautical and tech stocks. An article, "Capital Markets and U.S. Victory in the Space Race, 1957-1970," was featured in the Fall 2012 (special 25th anniversary edition) issue of Financial History, the magazine of the Museum of American Finance.
- Sarah Kohles, a 2012 Thomas Willing Institute fellow, researched the diamond trade in the twentieth century, especially investment in diamonds as an inflation hedge, for her article, "Diamond Rings: Capitalizing on Social Trends," featured in the Winter 2013 issue of Financial History, the magazine of the Museum of American Finance.
- Michael Seeley, a 2012 Thomas Willing Institute fellow, tracked the market for French bonds during Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign exactly two centuries ago. An op-ed, "What Are Wars Good For Anymore? Not for Plunder, At Least," has been published by the History News Network.
- Thad Titze, a 2012 Thomas Willing Institute fellow, explains that, while Greece’s fiscal policies are much maligned today, the ancient Greeks were major monetary and financial innovators in his article, "We're All [Ancient] Greeks Now When It Comes to Debt," published by the History News Network.
- Marissa Knaak and Megan Soe, 2011 Thomas Willing Institute fellows, co-wrote “Female Investment in America from the 18th Cenury to the Great Depression,” which follows the integral role of women in the market economy as consumers, employees, entrepreneurs and investors. The article was featured in the Winter 2012 issue of Financial History, the magazine of the Museum of American Finance.
- Hal Thompson, a 2011 Thomas Willing Institute fellow, wrote “Wall Street in Widescreen,” illustrating how cinema can help define the financial crisis of 2008 for the American public. The article was featured in the Fall 2011 issue of Financial History, the magazine of the Museum of American Finance.
Glossary of Terms and Research Links
- View a glossary of important business, economic, and financial history terms.
- Researchers and students should find these research links of great utility.