Early Stocks, Bonds, and Options

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Belgium claims to be home to the first exchange, with an exchange in Antwerp dating back to 1531.

During the 16th century, the East India Company became the first publicly-traded company as it issued stock and paid dividends on proceeds from its voyages.

The London Stock Exchange was created in 1773 and was followed by the New York Stock Exchange less than 20 years later.


The earliest recorded bond dates back to 2400 B.C., as a stone tablet recorded debt obligations that guaranteed repayment of grain.

During the Middle Ages, governments began issuing debts to fund war efforts. In the 17th century, the Bank of England was created to finance the British Navy.

The United States also began issuing Treasury bonds to support the Revolutionary War.

Options contracts can be found dating back to the Bible. In Genesis 29, Laban offers Jacob the option to marry his daughter in exchange for seven years of labor. However, this example demonstrates the difficulty of preserving obligations, as Laban reneged the agreement after Jacob’s labor was complete.

In Aristotle’s 4th-century philosophical work Politics, the early practice of options is outlined through an anecdote by the philosopher Thales. Believing a great future harvest of olives in the coming year, Thales pre-emptively acquired the rights to all olive presses in Chios and Miletus.

Regarding options on an exchange, both forward and options contracts were integrated into Amsterdam’s sophisticated clearing process by the mid-17th century.

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