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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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 »

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 »

Gelderblom O. (2005) The decline of fairs and merchant guilds

March 13, 2009

Gelderblom, Oscar (2005) “The decline of Fairs and Merchant Guilds in the Low Countries, 1250-1650″, Economy and Society in the Low Countries before 1850, Working Paper 1, 47p.


This article is available on line

Between the 11th and 13th century, during the Commercial Revolution, long-distance trade in Europe expanded rapidly thanks to organizational improvements such as fairs and merchant guilds (p.1). In fairs, merchants increased their chance to find business partners and benefited from the protection and the contract-enforcement abilities of the local jurisdictions. Merchant guilds were associations of traders from the same origin present in a foreign market and united in order to increase their bargain power with local authorities (p.2). Read the rest of this entry »

Bolton J.L. and Guidi Bruscoli F. (2008) When did Antwerp replace Bruges?

March 12, 2009

Bolton, Jim L. and Guidi Bruscoli, Francesco (2008) “When did Antwerp replace Bruges as the commercial and financial centre of north-western Europe? The evidence of the Borromei ledger for 1438”, The Economic History Review, 61/2, 360-379.


This article is part of the on-going research project, the Borromei family and its banks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

The classic account of the rise of Antwerp

In the 1940-60s, the Belgian scholar J. A. van Houtte produced what was to become the classical account of the rise of Antwerp. In his view, Bruges was not only the entrepôt where goods from the Mediterranean and the Baltic were exchanged, but also the door to and from the dynamic Flemish market, which at the time was boosted by a large urban population, a wealthy bourgeoisie and the magnificent court of the dukes of Burgundy. Read the rest of this entry »