Any brief history of stock market or share trading has to immediately start by recognizing that the exact origins are lost in the mists of time. There are conflicting reports that Muslim and Jewish merchants in Cairo were the first to establish a stock market while the traditionalists maintain the oldest ones were actually in Italy and these are usually the starting point when considering a brief history of stock market trading.
The 13th Century Italians almost certainly had the closest share trading markets to what we would recognize today. The Venetian traders were probably the first ones to begin dealing with government securities and even back then there was insider trading going on. In fact as early as 1351 there was a law passed in Venice which was designed to stop people spreading rumors that would drive down prices.
As more formal commerce spread around Europe so did the need to have stock markets. By around the 16th and 17th centuries Amsterdam had begun to become the main stock market in Europe. It was there that the very first company to issue stocks and bonds was formed. This was the Dutch East India Company who issued the first share ever to be sold on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The Dutch as leaders in this new field soon began to develop some of the financial instruments that we are all still familiar with today. They introduced things such as traded options, short selling, unit trusts and even debt-equity swaps which were revolutionary at the time.
After the early success of those Dutch pioneers other countries soon began to see how they could copy this new trading model. Perhaps the most successful were the English with the London Stock Exchange. The LSE even today is acknowledged as the leading stock market in the world.
It was to London that the first American Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, turned when he wanted to begin development of economic power in the New World. Hamilton founded the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in the late 18th century where it was joined around fifty years later by what is now the American Stock Exchange. Both the NYSE and Amex remain on Wall Street to this day.
Throughout the history of stock trading there have been many stories of huge successes such as the Dutch East India Company. There have also been many spectacular financial failures. Two of the most notable are the South Sea Bubble and the 1929 Wall Street crash but they all go to make up the fascinating and brief history of stock market trading.