By Ernst Juerg Weber, University of Western Australia - UWA Business School
Abstract: Contracts for future delivery of commodities spread from Mesopotamia to Hellenistic Egypt and the Roman world. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, contracts for future delivery continued to be used in the Byzantine Empire in the eastern Mediterranean and they survived in canon law in western Europe. It is likely that Sephardic Jews carried derivative trading from Mesopotamia to Spain during Roman times and the first millennium AD, and, after being expelled from Spain, to the Low Countries in the sixteenth century. The first derivatives on securities were written in the Low Countries in the sixteenth century. Derivative trading on securities spread from Amsterdam to England and France at the turn of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, and from France to Germany in the early nineteenth century. Circumstantial evidence indicates that bankers and banks were at the forefront of derivative trading during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
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