What my credit can do in (medieval) Venice

January 2, 2013

Mueller, Reinhold C. (1987) I banchi locali a Venezia nel Tardo Medioevo. Studi Storici, 28/1: 145-55.

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There is a lot to be admired in Austrian economists, their resilience, their attachment to simple elegant ideas and their sound understanding of the long-term factors that give the economy its cyclical nature. But one must admit that their Ludite-like hatred for finance is to the very least puzzling. They claim to trust nothing but gold and they would like to see the activity of banks restricted to little more than a locker service. Their trust in free market and in the adaptive nature of human ingenuity ends at the door of their local branch of HSBC. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »


Stabel P. and Haemers J. (2006) Financial revolution: the supply side story (… almost)

September 12, 2009

Stabel, Peter and Jelle Haemers (2006) “From Bruges to Antwerp. International commercial firms and government’s credit in the late 15th and early 16th century”, 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, p.20-38.

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Introduction

The Financial Revolution – i. e. the gradual increase of government spending made possible by an increasing reliance on loans obtained from the capital markets – has essentially been studied from the side of the public demand. The ability of the markets to match this demand being regarded almost as a given. Meanwhile the impact the governments’ enormous financial needs may have had on private finance have hardly been addressed (p.22). Read the rest of this entry »


Web shopping: Newspaper article on Xinjiang’s economic history

July 15, 2009
"Police officers marching in Urumqi". Photo by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

"Police officers marching in Urumqi". Photo by Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

If you want to know more about the historical and economic origins of Uighur’s unrest in China last weeks, here is a good article on Xinjiang’s history by Edward Wong, a New York Times journalist.


The world’s first public bank

April 18, 2009

Vincent Bolandhas just published in the FT a great article about my beloved city of Genoa and its early and complex financial system and the all-mighty Banco di San Giorgio. I realy like when mainstream media deal with Economic History.

Some more about the bank from The Economist.

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Published: April 17 2009 17:15 | Last updated: April 17 2009 17:15

On March 2 1408, eight men gathered in the great hall of the Casa di San Giorgio, a trading house on what was then the main street in Genoa, a few metres from where the waters of the Ligurian Sea lap the Italian shore. They were merchants, rich and powerful representatives of the city’s most influential families, and they were meeting to discuss a matter of the utmost gravity. The once-glorious republic of Genoa had fallen on hard times. After years of war with Venice and a crushing defeat at the battle of Chioggia in 1381, the state was effectively bankrupt. The task was to rescue it.

A few months earlier, towards the end of 1407, Genoa’s Council of Ancients had authorised the Casa di San Giorgio to carry out this job. It would be accomplished by creating a bank that would facilitate the repayment of Genoa’s debts in return for interest at 7 per cent and the right to collect taxes and customs owed to the city. The purpose of the meeting that spring day was to declare the Banco di San Giorgio open for business. Read the rest of this entry »


Dittmar J. (2008) The emergence of Zipf’s Law

April 2, 2009

Dittmar, Jeremiah (2008) “Cities, Institutions, and Growth: The Emergence of Zipf’s Law”, Job Market Paper.

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This paper is available on line.

Introduction

Zipf’s Law is a simple power law holding that the number of cities with population greater than N is proportionate to 1/N, this results in a log-linear relation between city population and city size rank (p.2). However, as shown by pre-modern European urban history, this law is not universal nor a-temporal (p.3). This outlying is very significant since economists have recognized that “there is an optimal level of urban concentration and that both over- and under- concentration can be very costly in terms of productivity growth” (p.4). When respecting the Zipf’s Law, city growth is considered random, so what prevented “normal” urban expansion and what later on made it possible? Read the rest of this entry »


Blanchard I. (1986) The 16th-century European cattle trade

March 14, 2009

Blanchard, Ian (1986) “The Continental European Cattle Trades, 1400-1600”, The Economic History Review, 39/3, 427-460.

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Introduction

The European international cattle trade arose in the 1470s out of a “context of a network of regional markets” for locally grazed animals (p.428). Antwerp for instance drew its supplies mostly from Zealand and Holland. The diminutive livestock trade was limited to the Hungarian exports to Venice and some Rhenish towns (Frankfurt, Cologne; p.429). “As gold production recovered in Hungary during the second quarter of the 15th century, […] the economy was subject to the dual pressures of a hard exchange and an excessive money supply which caused its export products to be overpriced on international market and turned a previously strong balance of trade into a decidedly weak one” (p.430). The northern Polish (Breslau, Poznan, Gniezno) products partly replaced the Hungarian cattle after the 1420s, they were exported through the fair of Leipzig. The Hungarian solely retained the south European markets. Read the rest of this entry »