Home » Departments and Centres » History and Civilization » Research & Teaching » Seminars » 2018-2019 2nd term » Paying for It All: Debt and Guilt in Early Modern Europe and beyond

Paying for It All: Debt and Guilt in Early Modern Europe and beyond

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof Regina Grafe and Dr Benoit Maréchaux (Max Weber Fellow)
Registration code: HEC-RS-PAYALL-18
Thursdays, 17:10 - 19:00, Sala del Torrino
Starts on 10 January 2019

Admin. Assistant: Fabrizio Borchi


Seminar Description

No matter if we look at the expansion of towns, states, or empires or at the fortunes of craft guilds, convents, or the East India Companies, the backbone of the political and economic expansion of the early modern period were the ways and means in which institutions were financed. Without a clear separation between the public and the private, modern notions of financial and economic versus social or cultural or political history seem ill suited to understand the economic rationality and morality of such endeavors. When it comes to explaining the financial transformations of the early modern period seeming paradoxes abound. Cathedral chapters became banks. Kings became shareholders. States relied on lotteries and slave trade for finance. Merchants became admirals. Guilds became industrialists. The development of sophisticated means to circulate, lend, and invest capital were accompanied by both anti-Semitic campaigns and anti-clerical ones. French revolutionaries were willing to overthrow the social order, but not to stop paying the interest on the public debt. In this seminar we will discuss the wide-ranging new historiography on the links between strings of power and finance, focusing on the economic and political consequences of debt and on the social and cultural implications of attitudes to money, credit, public vice and private virtue in early modern Europe and beyond.


10 January: Debts and states

  • O'Brien, P. 2014. "The formation of states and transitions to modern economies: England, Europe, and Asia compared." In The Cambridge History of Capitalism, edited by Larry Neal, 357-402. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 't Hart, M.,Brandon,  P. , and Sánchez, R. 2018. "Introduction: Maximising revenues, minimising political costs – challenges in the history of public finance of the early modern period."  Financial History Review  25 (1):1-18.

17 January: Representation, local taxes,and royal debts

  • Álvarez‐Nogal, C. and Chamley, C. 2014. "Debt Policy Under Constraints: Philip II, the Cortes, and Genoese bankers".The Economic History Review, 67(1): 192-213
  • Boucoyannis, D. A. 2015. "No Representation without Taxation: The Coercive Origins of Consent and Constitutionalism." Politics and Society (September): 303-332

24 January: Monasteries and other banks

  • Milhaud, C. 2015. "Priests or bankers? The ecclesiastical credit in early modern Spain." working paper <hal-01180682>.
  • Burns, K. 1997. "Nuns, kurakas, and credit: The spiritual economy of seventeenth‐century Cuzco." Colonial Latin American Review 6 (2):185-203.
  • Carboni, M. 2012. "Converting Goods into Cash: An Ethical Approach to Pawnbroking in Early Modern Bologna." Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 35 (3):63-83

31 January: The damn numbers: did they know when they were broke?

  • Gervais P. 2014. « Why profit and loss didn’t matter: the historicized rationality of Early Modern merchant accounting» in P.Gervais, Y. Lemarchand, and D. Margairaz, Merchants and Profits in the Age of Commerce, 1680-1830 .London, Pickering and Chatto:33-52

7 February: Bubbles, bursts, and banking on the lottery

  • Murphy, A. L. 2005. "Lotteries in the 1690s: investment or gamble?". Financial History Review 12 (2):227-246
  • Carlos, A. M. and Neal, L.. 2006."The micro-foundations of the early London capital market: Bank of England shareholders during and after the South Sea Bubble, 1700-25". Economic History Review LIX (3):498-538.
  • Paul, Helen J. 2013. The South Sea bubble: an economic history of its origins and consequences. London; New York: Taylor & Francis. Chapters 7 and 8

14 February: Financial innovation or accident: Financial revolution or evolution

  • Gelderblom, O. and J. Jonker.2004.“Completing a Financial Revolution: The Finance of the Dutch East India Trade and the Riseof the Amsterdam Capital Market, 1595-1612”.The Journal of Economic History 64(3):641-672.
  • Fratianni, M. and F. Spinelli. 2006.“Italian city-states and financial evolution”. European Review of Economic History 10(3):257-278.

21 February: Usury, anti-Semitism, and the fear of the market

  • Glaisyer, Natasha. 2007. "Calculating Credibility: Print Culture, Trust and Economic Figures in Early Eighteenth-Century England." The Economic History Review, New Series 60 (4):685-711.
  • Trivellato, Francesca. 2019. The Promise and Peril of Credit What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells Us about the Making of European Commercial Society. Chapters on the learning platform

28 February: Imperial subsidies and the cost of empire

  • Grafe, R. and Irigoin, A. 2012. "A stakeholder empire: the political economy of Spanish imperial rule in America".The Economic History Review 65 (2): 609-651.
  • Costa, Leonor Freire, Nuno Palma, and Jaime Reis. 2015. "The Great Escape? The Contribution of the Empire to Portugal’s Economic Growth, 1500-1800." European Review of Economic History 19:1-22.

7 March No seminar 

14 March: Conservative revolutionaries

  • Kwass, Michael. 2013. "The First War on Drugs: Tobacco Trafficking, Criminality and the Fiscal State in Eighteenth-Century France." in The Hidden History of Crime, Corruption and States, edited by Renate Bridenthal. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Spang, Rebecca L. 2017. Stuff and money in the time of the French Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. Chapters on the learning platform

21 March: Galleons, galleys and Men of War: The business of naval provisioning

  • Parrott, D. 2012. The Business of War. Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Introduction
  • Torres Sánchez, R. 2016. Military Entrepreneurs and the Spanish Contractor State in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

28 March: TBA


Page last updated on 08 March 2019