Hoffman, P., Postel-Vinay, G. and Rosenthal, J.-L. …and notaries never became bankers

December 9, 2010

Hoffman, Philip T., Gilles Postel-Vinay and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal (2001) Notaries, Banking and the Expansion of Credit in Old-Regime Paris, chapter 7 in Priceless Markets. The Political Economy of Credit in Paris, 1660-1870. University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London; p.136-176.

Some of the ideas developed in this chapter have been presented elsewhere, so this summary concentrates on the what’s new.

Evidence indicates that in the second quarter of the 18th century, some Parisian notaries were venturing away from the role of brokers between creditors and debtors they had acquired since the mid 1600s. In effect some of them were filling the position left empty by the absence of deposit banks (p.138). They were accepting interest-bearing deposits redeemable on demand and investing the money in different longer term assets such as bills of exchange, government debt and loans to individuals.

Moral hazards
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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 »

Frehen R., Goetzmann W. and Rouwenhorst G. (2009) Why invest in the bubbles?

August 31, 2009

Frehen, Rik, William Goetzmann and Geert Rouwenhorst (2009) “New Evidence on the First Financial Bubbles”, Yale international Center for Finance, Working Paper 04, 24p.

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This article is available online.

Why did investors decide to bet on the various companies that would form the three 1720 bubbles in France, England and the Netherlands? (p.1). How did these bubbles affect companies which unlike the Compagnie des Indes and the South Sea Company were neither involved in the Atlantic trade nor in public finance?

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Flandreau M. et al. (2009) The question was not how to develop finance

August 30, 2009

Flandreau, Marc, Christophe Galimard, Clemens Jobst and Pilar Nogués-Marco (2009) “The bell-jar: commercial interest rates betwee two revolutions” in The Origin and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, eds. Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 161-208.

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An earlier version of this paper is available here.

For institutionalist economists as well as for contemporary commentators, the wealth of nations in 18th century Europe was rooted in their political system which influenced the level of interest rates and thus trade (p.165). The confidence investors had in the government’s credit was thus seen as critical (tellingly John Law’s primary aim was to bring interest rates down; p.166). Read the rest of this entry »

Velde F. (2009) Eighteenth-century France’s one-man-bubble

August 21, 2009

Velde, François R. (2009) “Was John Law’s System a bubble? The Mississipi Bubble revisited” in The Origin and Development of Financial Markets and Institutions. From the Seventeenth Century to the Present, eds. Jeremy Atack and Larry Neal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 99-120.

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A slightly different version of this paper is available online.

The shares of the Compagnie des Indes created by John Law to manage the colonization of Louisiana, public finances and monopolies went from 250 Livres in July 1718 when the initial offering closed to just under 10,000 L days before Christmas 1719 and finally to 50 L in March 1721 (p.108). Can this jump followed by an even more impressive collapse in under 3 years be described as a bubble? (p.109) Read the rest of this entry »

Hoffman P., Postel-Vinay G. and Rosenthal J.-L. (1992) Private credit market in Paris

March 28, 2009

Hoffman, Philip T., Postel-Vinay, Gilles, and Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent (1992) “Private Credit Markets in Paris, 1690-1840”, The Journal of Economic History, 52/2, 293-306.



In Ancien Régime France, “credit assumed such importance that, as one historian suggest, an 18th-century person’s very reputation was bound up with his ability to obtain loans.” Until the late 19th century, the usual intermediaries on the credit market were not banks but notaries (p.294). Notarial offices recorded families’ transactions for generations, notaries thus enjoyed a unique ability to access information on the parties’ financial history. Their intimate knowledge of a person’s position allowed them to match borrowers and lenders, often on short notice. Read the rest of this entry »

Abelor G. (1973) The great alteration of the French roads in the 18th century

April 20, 2008

Arbellot Guy (1973) “La grande mutation des routes de France au XVIIIe siècle”, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 28/3. 765-791.

This article is available on line.


When Louis XIV died (1715), the roads of the kingdom he was leaving to his successor were in a dreadful state. This was a major bottleneck for the growing economic and administrative activities. The controleur général (finance secretary) Orry and the intendant Trudaine decided to repair the old roads and build new ones where carts and coaches could travel fast. Read the rest of this entry »