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 »

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 »

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 »

Drelichman M. and Voth H.-J. (2008) Was Golden Age Spain cursed?

July 6, 2009

Drelichman, Mauricio and Voth, Hans-Joachim (2008) “Institutions and the Resource Curse in Early Modern Spain”, in Helpman, Elhanan; ed. Institutions and Economic Performance, Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 34p.

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This paper is available here (pdf).


During the late 16th and 17th century, the Spanish crown defaulted several times on its debts, growth was sluggish and population eventually shrank (p.4). The cause of this failure has been known for a while: the ‘resource curse’, or in other words, the “undesirable economic outcomes associated with natural resources abundance”.

The most famous of these symptoms has been called the ‘Dutch disease’. In that case, the resource-oriented sector of the economy attracts in priority the production factors, thus depleting the innovation-rich manufactory sector and making the country dependant on import, thus deteriorating the terms of trade (p.5). Read the rest of this entry »

This Week in Economic History (May 11th-17th)

May 10, 2009

I work as an assistant to Dr. Luis Jáuregui, president of the Mexican Economic History Association (AMHE). One of my duties is to search and edit new contents for the Association’s webpage. Among other things, the Association offers a weekly agenda and a list of future events in economic history.

When I first began looking for and organizing information on economic history events of the region and the world, I faced several problems. Even though seemed like the obvious place to go, the site lacks information on seminars and conferences smaller than major congresses or anual meetings. For that thing one has to search in the webpages of different universities. The French Economic History Association has a very good calendar; however, it is obviously skewed with the many events related to economic history in France. E-mail lists such as the one from the Societies for the History of Economics,  H-World and H-Business also have events from which otherwise one would probably never know. The economic history associations of Latin America use to be very “local” in terms of the events they announce in their webpages.Thus one has to search in several sources what could probably be updated in a central database.

Read the rest of this entry »