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History of the stock exchange

A stock exchange is simply a place where stock is traded. Obviously, in this day and age, the New York Stock Exchange is much, much more than that. Not only is stock traded, but bonds, securities, commodities and countless other things are traded, as well. The NYSE has become so well known throughout the world that it has evolved from a place to do business to a genuine tourist attraction. The history of the market, combined with the wealth and power that resides within its walls makes it a must-see for any tourist visiting New York City. But how did we go from a dirt road trading post on the outskirts of a small village to a marble and stone monolith like the New York Stock Exchange?

While the location of the very first stock exchange is somewhat controversial, it is believed that the original exchange was located in the Egyptian city of Cairo at or around the 11th century. It is thought that Jewish and Islamic merchants dealt in stock and commodities trading. This goes against most common beliefs that the Italians were the ones to actually invent the stock market.

The first appearance of stock brokers can be traced back to France in the 12th century. A person known as the courratier de change was saddened with the job of regulating and managing the debts and finances of communities that were based on agriculture for the local banking system. They were also known to trade the debts that they kept records of.

During the next century, French commodity traders started to become more organized and groups that would meet on a regular basis to trade began sprouting up all over Western Europe.

The first evidence of trading of government securities was seen by Venetians in the 1200’s. The government of Venice soon outlawed the practice of rumour spreading with the intent of lowering prices of government-issued securities.

Within the next few hundred years, the Dutch were the first to start stock companies that let their shareholders have a piece of profits, and losses. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange was the first exchange to offer the idea of continuous trade as early as the 17th century.

The road from dusty marketplace to organized stock exchange has been a rocky one, but the evolution is unmistakeable. With the current trend of moving away from floor traders and to computerized trading, no one knows what the stock exchange of the future will look like, but one thing is for certain, the market will continue to change over time, no matter what.

  © Mirza Rais 2008

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