Murphy A. (2006) The Financial Revolution: a supply-side story (for real)

October 9, 2009

Murphy, Anne L. (2006) “Dealing with Uncertainty: Managing Personal Investment in the Early English National Debt”, History, 91/302, 200-17.

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The sums involved in the so-called English Financial Revolution following the arrival on the throne of William III were altogether not that important: £6.9m from 1688 to 1702 while the government budget over the period reached £72m. However, “the impact of those novel methods of fund-raising was considerable”. In particular because small wealth-owners represented a large share of these early investors (p.201). Samuel Jeake, a merchant from Rye (East Sussex) was one of those small investors. He recorded his thought and his transactions in a diary and a few letters (p.202). Read the rest of this entry »

Fontaine L. (2008) When relief is worth more than a treasure

October 8, 2009

Fontaine, Laurence (2008) “Entre banque et assistance: la création des monts-de-piété”, chapter 6 in L’Economie morale. Pauvreté, crédit et confiance dans l’Europe préindustrielle. Paris : Gallimard, p.164-189.

Picture 2fontaine02FileMonte di pietà dei pilli, before 1880

The first Monti di Pietà (or mounts) were created in 15th-century Italy by Recollet monks to shield the less-fortunate from the scourge of usury. It was not so much intended to pool the poor out of misery as to provide the struggling middle dwellers with a last safety net before falling into poverty (p.164). In the peninsula, the capital hoarded in the safes of the mounts was often diverted from its original aim to be loaned to the rich. It prevented the Italian mounts from becoming really successful. However their model spread over Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Alonso García D. (2008) For the monarchy: entrepreneurs on call

October 6, 2009

Alonso García, David (2008) “Finances royales et monde financier dans la creation de la monarchie espagnole (xvie siècle)” in Les finances royales dans la monarchie espagnole (xvie-xixe siècles), ed Anne Dubet. Rennes: Presses Unioversitaires de Rennes, 175-186.

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Early modern governments’ reliance on private finance has usually been interpreted as a sign of weakness. This is an anachronism; the use of private finance is the result of a strategy from the sovereigns (p.175). In Spain, the crown sees the involvement of the merchants in the tax-collection process as a way to enrich the kingdom (p.176). Read the rest of this entry »

McCant A. (1997) Moral capitalism: investments to feed orphans

October 2, 2009

McCants, Anne E.C. (1997) “The Rise and Decline of an Institutional Endowment, in Civic Charity in a Golden Age. Orphan Care in Early Modern Amsterdam, Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 151-191.

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Numerous elements point to the fact that Dutch charities were well-endowed in the early modern period (p.151). Nonetheless charities were expensive to run and part of the funds came from the beneficiaries themselves. For instance at the Amsterdam Municipal Orphanage, or Bugerweeshuis,

“the orphaned children of poor, but nonetheless, citizen, parents could not be denied entry on the basis of an inadequate inheritance to defray the cost of their support. But the orphaned children of prosperous citizens could also not expect to be cared for entirely at public expenses.”

Nonetheless the bulk of the institution’s resources came from its invested endowment (p.153). Read the rest of this entry »

McCants A. (2007) Poverty v. Modernity: 1/0

September 29, 2009

McCants, Anne E.C. (2007) “Inequality among the poor of eighteenth century Amsterdam”, Explorations in Economic History, 44/1: 1-21.

d5124042lAnne McCantssteen_nicholas

The Netherlands, and more precisely Holland, are often described as the first modern economy (p.2). Economic growth over the Golden Ages attracted numerous migrants from the rural areas of the country as well as from all over Northern Europe. Usually these new comers were extremely poor and as a result standards of living in 1800 seem to have been lower than in 1500. Dutch cities were thus characterized by a very high level of inequality (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »

Dagnino G. B. (1995) When being the first is not enough

September 28, 2009

Dagnino, Giovanni Battista (1995) “The Tavola di Palermo: The First Public Bank of Second European XVI century” in Proceedings of the Conference on Business History, October 24 and 25 1994, Rotterdam, eds Mila Davids, Ferry de Goey & Dirk de Witt, 91-111.

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The evolution of Sicilian banks reflects the history of the island during the early modern period, in that they were “economically and financially backward” (p.91). The 16th century in the Western Mediterranean was a time of Spanish Domination dominated by (1) money clipping, (2) high inflation, (3) commercial mismanagement, (4) Gresham Law episodes fuelled by unscrupulous financiers and (5) heavy and altogether negative government interventions (p.93). Read the rest of this entry »

Pullan B. (1999) Save the body to save the soul

September 24, 2009

Pullan, Brian (1999) “The Counter-Reformation, medical care and poor relief”, in Health Care and Poor Relief in Counter-Reformation Europe, eds Ole Peter Grell, Andrew Cunnigham & Jon Arrizabalaga, London: Routledge, 17-33.

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“It [Counter Reformation] stood among much else, for a more introspective Christianity founded on meditative prayer and the systematic examination of conscience, for a moral discipline which extended to clergy and laity alike, for a systematic pay piety shaped by participation in confraternities – in societies devoted to ceremony and good works, and designed to encourage people who could not withdraw from everyday life to follow a modified religious rule based on the practice of charity in all senses of the word”. Read the rest of this entry »

Gelderblom O. & Jonker J. (2008) What really brought interests down

September 21, 2009

Gelderblom, Oscar & Joost Jonker (2009) “The Conditional Miracle. Institutional change, fiscal policy, bond markets and interest rates in Holland 1514-1713”, Utrecht University Working Papers.

Jan de Baen, Portret van Johan de WittOscar en JoostKaartLeiden

This paper is available online (pdf).

Traditional explanation of the low issuing rate on public debt in the Dutch Republic emphasize the dramatic fall that occurred around 1600, but fail to explain why this level kept on falling from 1640 to 1725, until it had reached 2.5% (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »

Huerta de Soto J. (1996) The Bankers of Seville

September 9, 2009

 Huerta de Soto, Jesus (1996) “New Light on the Prehistory of the Theory of Banking and the School of Salamanca”, The Review of Austrian Economics, 9/2, 59-81.

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This article is available on line (pdf) 


During the 16th century, all the bankers of Seville inexorably went bankrupt. They were unable to meet the withdrawal demands from their depositors due to insufficient liquidity. Indeed they worked with fractional cash ratio, which allowed them to invest heavily in the shipping and tax collection business they owned and when confronted with an important demand of cash, they simply suspended payment (p.61). “Artificial credit creation, without an adequate base of real saving” was always threatening to push the city into recession. The positive effects of the practice reversed in the second half of the century (p.62). Read the rest of this entry »

Nogal C. Á. (2006) Transferring Spanish cash to 17th-century Flanders

September 8, 2009

Nogal, Carlos Álvarez (2006) “La transferencia de dinero a Flandes en el siglo XVII” in Banca, Crédito y Captial. La Monarquía Hispánica y los antiguos Países Bajos (1505-1700), eds. Carmen Sanz Ayán and Bernardo J. García García, Madrid: Fundación Carlos de Amberes, 204-231.

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From 1567 to 1586, the Spanish Crown sent some 1.5m. ducats annually to Flanders; by 1608 this figure was reaching 3.5m. To do that, the king had to rely on Genoese intermediaries that could provide credit in Antwerp while being paid in Spain. But how exactly did the bankers manage to transfer that much money around war-torn Europe? (p.205) Financiers have often been accused to unduly charge the monarchy enormous fees for their service, but how much exactly did this service cost the bankers themselves? Read the rest of this entry »

Flandreau M. et al. (2009) Financiers without borders

September 6, 2009

Flandreau, Marc, Christophe Galimard, Clemens Jobst and Pilar Nogués-Marco (2009) “Monetary Geography Before the Industrial Revolution”, CEPR, DP7169, 25p.

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Some argue that national moneys have been constructed by states, but not before the 19th century. Prior, during the 18th century, there were no monetary borders to speak of and local markets were integrated by the ubiquitous bills of exchange; regulation remaining at a sub-national level (cities; p.1). Others have pointed out that the financial geography was not that seamless and that a shape arose from endogenous elements (transaction costs, agglomeration economies, etc.). Finally, institutionalist economists have argued that factors such as parliaments and constitutions were critical in the dawn of international finance (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »

How the market made modern art

September 4, 2009

During the Utrecht conference, I encountered Jeff Taylor, a young American scholar based at the CEU of Budapest,   who was presenting his research on the rise of modernism in Hungarian art. His work is very interesting as it offers a history of art considered as any other business or economic activity. His PhD thesis will be published and to be frank I can’t wait. Here is the insightful interview he granted me this week via email.

Read the rest of this entry »